Researchers test cancer’s psychological impacts

Source: TheHerald

Professor Afaf Girgis from the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research is investigating the psychological impact of cancer. Picture: Marina Neil
THE psychological health of cancer patients has become the primary focus for a team of researchers at the Ingham Institute in Sydney and the University of Newcastle.

While the physical impacts of cancer are broadly researched, the psychological impact of the disease has been under-investigated according to Ingham Institute psychological-oncology group leader Professor Afaf Girgis.

Professor Girgis and Professor Brian Kelly, from the University of Newcastle, aim to develop a model of psychological care for patients with urological, head and neck cancers at John Hunter Hospital.

Professor Girgis, who is based in Newcastle, said the model would be implemented at John Hunter Hospital first, with the idea of rolling it out to other areas of the country.

Initial studies with urological, head and neck cancers patients at the hospital has revealed a wide range of issues and concerns in relation to their illness. These can include disfigurement and body issues for head and neck patients.

The findings were presented at the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Translational Cancer Research Conference, which began at Newcastle City Hall yesterday and runs until tomorrow.

‘‘The needs of urological and head and neck cancer patients are very high and would benefit from having their own specific model of care in hospitals and cancer therapy units,’’ Professor Girgis said.

The next phase will involve testing the model with patients and healthcare professionals to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing levels of patient distress.

A key element is improving access to information, with the project providing an iPad app to patients in hospital to help them access resources to ease their psychological distress..

‘‘Initial clinician and patient feedback has shown that having access to electronic resources like iPads where patients can go online to address health questions and concerns quickly and easily can help to reduce their levels of distress,’’ Professor Girgis said.

The final results of the study will be available by the end of next year.

The Ingham Institute is a non-profit research organisation in Sydney, which was established at Liverpool Hospital.

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