East Melbourne Psychology

Quality Counselling from Experienced Clinical Psychologists


Psycho-Oncology is a special area of psychology that not only addresses the psychological responses that people have when they receive a diagnosis of cancer, but also addresses the behavioural and social aspects at all stages of the disease. A diagnosis of cancer is, for most people, devastating and adjusting to the cancer diagnosis can be one of the most difficult and stressful times in a person’s life.

Erica – reflecting on receiving her diagnosis of breast cancer: I can remember every detail about that moment, the look on the doctor’s face, the dread in my chest as I realised what she was about to say, the feeling of the ground giving away under my feet, floating out of the doctor’s office, the rain on my face, the thought ‘I am going to die’…..

Erica did not die and at the time of her diagnosis was told that the prognosis was good, that she would survive. This does not stop people from fearing the worst at the mention of the C word. For many it takes some time to adjust to the reality that they will survive. Others where the prognosis is not so good, of course have to face the news and somehow find a way to come to terms with this.

It’s normal to feel a great deal of distress when you or someone close to you gets told they have cancer. But some may struggle more than others on receiving this news. How a person copes with cancer can depend on how they have coped in general with life. Or it may depend on how well resourced they are in terms of support and finances or on what stage of life they are at.

A cancer diagnosis throws up many challenges. Not only health challenges, but financial, job, and relationship challenges. Furthermore, the cancer diagnosis can give rise to many fears. People naturally fear that they will die, regardless of how good the prognosis may be. They worry about the future, how their loved ones will cope and how their bodies will change, how they will cope with treatment.

Taking an active part in dealing with cancer, can help the patient feel a bit more empowered and hopefully less overwhelmed by what lies ahead. Therapy can help the patient manage their thoughts around their cancer as well as talk through their worries and access their internal resources so as to cope in the best way possible.