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December 13, 2019

Reaching Wellness on a Cancer Journey Through Cancer Support Services

by Shanthi Gowrinathan

Pacific Brain Health Center’s Dr. Shanthi Gowrinathan was featured in the Santa Monica Star, November 2019 edition. Dr. Gowrinathan delves into the psycho-oncology aspects of a patient’s journey. This includes treating not just a patient’s cancer, but treating the physical, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects involved in fighting and recovering from a battle with cancer.

Wellness On A Cancer Journey Is Possible With Support

Cancer can change everything. The way we think. The way we feel. The way we behave. These changes can be disorienting and distressing. Unfortunately, for many people with cancer, the battle to regain a sense of self is fought alone, because there is still too little recognition of just how much it takes to rise up after a diagnosis of cancer or after treatment.

Psycho-oncology, the interdisciplinary practice of treating the physical, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of the cancer experience, is an important intervention for those patients who find their mental health and cognition adversely affected by cancer treatment. Studies show that 30-60 percent of cancer patients report significant symptoms of anxiety or depression. Statistics vary from cancer to cancer, but a growing body of work since the 1980’s has firmly established that psychological distress and untreated psychiatric illness can negatively impact the ability to both tolerate cancer treatment and recover. Medications and/or psychotherapy have been shown to be useful for a wide range or psychiatric issues, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

While it is essential to treat these common cancer-related psychiatric issues, there are many other areas that may require support to allow a person to regain overall wellness. Brain health (both cognitive and mental/emotional health), nutritional needs, pain and debilitation, and existential issues (spirituality or life-meaning/purpose) can all become barriers to successfully navigating cancer and its treatment. As a Psycho-oncologist, my role is to identify and remove these barriers, through medication, psychotherapy, direct communication with the oncologist, or collaboration with our larger Cancer Support Services team.

Cancer support services and psycho-oncology can change everything. Proper support positively impacts a person’s ability to tolerate treatment and the speed of their recovery and gives a person with cancer a bridge back to quality of life.

When I see how much our support helps cancer patients to overcome obstacles and thrive, the only question that remains is: Why should anyone have to do this alone?

Pacific Brain Health Center

Our experts are dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for a broad range of conditions that affect brain health and quality of life. It’s never too early to focus on your brain health. Schedule an appointment with a brain health specialist today.

Article Source: Santa Monica Star November 2019 Edition, pg 2

About the Author

Shanthi Gowrinathan MD

Shanthi Gowrinathan

Dr. Shanthi Gowrinathan is an accomplished inpatient and outpatient psychiatrist, specializing in both Women’s Psychiatry and Psycho-oncology (Cancer psychiatry). Dr. Gowrinathan integrates her recommendations with the patient’s medical teams to ensure a whole person, interdisciplinary and cohesive treatment approach. Gifted with the strong ability to empathetically connect with her patients quickly, Dr. Gowrinathan is proficient at diagnosing and treating psychiatric disease in the context of complex medical issues such as cancer diagnosis.

Last updated: December 8th, 2022