A cancer diagnosis and it's treatment takes a toll on anyone, both physically and mentally. When a cancer diagnosis comes during adolescence, a time notorious for challenging social interactions, the emotional impact can be very difficult. Dr. Anne Kuperberg, director of Teen Impact at Children's Hospital Los Angeles explains, "The greatest challenge teens with cancer face is social isolation. Many of their peers are uncomfortable with illness, and many teens with cancer may withdraw from their friends because they feel they are so different and don’t fit in.” She continues, “Patients and parents want to protect one another. They keep up a facade that everything will be O.K., and feelings of depression and anxiety go unexpressed.”
Knowing how your patient (and their family) will cope with cancer is impossible without assessment. Some patients may experience traumatic stress reactions or even PTSD. Others, like Sonia, may experience post traumatic growth. Sophie used her diagnosis of bone cancer at 15 years old to push herself to enjoy each moment in life. She explains, "having cancer puts other issues into perspective. I feel like I have to do as much as I can. I've gotten involved in so much. I try to enjoy myself more. And I don’t regret for a minute how I've been spending my time.” At 20 years, she attends college and "her main concern now is that people meet and get to know her as a whole, normal person, not someone who has had cancer."
How do you assess your patients' mental and emotional health?