Pastoral Thanatology: How to Care For A Patient With Cancer

How to Care for a Patient With Cancer

Care of cancer patients is a true calling.  Please review our pastoral thanatology program
Care of cancer patients is a true calling. Please review our pastoral thanatology program

Cancer is a difficult disease that can be a devastating diagnosis for both the patient and their loved ones. It is important for not only the patient to be well informed, but also for the people in their life who will be caring for them during their treatment.

Symptoms and Side Effects

If cancer is discovered early the patient may not experience symptoms of the cancer itself. Often the treatment, such as chemotherapy, causes unpleasant side effects. Whether from the disease itself or from the treatment, common symptoms experienced by cancer patients include:


-Loss of Appetite


-Hair Loss

-Digestion Problems

-Body Pain

-Skin Sores

-Sleep Problems

Psychological and Emotional Symptoms

A cancer diagnosis is difficult on the mind as well as the body. Both the patient and their family may experience fear, anxiety, and depression. The stress that accompanies long term medical care can sometimes affect relationships. So, it is important that both the patient and their caregivers get the emotional support they need during this difficult time.

Caring for the Patient

A patient undergoing cancer treatment requires palliative care. Palliative care addresses the patient’s physical symptoms as well as their emotional needs. The goal is to provide a support structure for everyone involved. A good palliative team will include not only doctors and oncologists, but also counselors, possibly dietitians or nutritionists, pain specialists, sometimes clergy or chaplains, as well as friends and family members. It can be just as important for family and caregivers to seek counseling as it is for the patient, as they will be going through this journey also.

Different Types of Cancer Require Specialized Approaches

Some forms of cancer are common and therefore they are easier to treat. But, certain rare types can be more challenging. Professionals, like those at Missouri Cancer Associates, know that some cancers spread at faster rates than others, which means that a timely diagnosis and treatment is crucial. For example, small cell lung cancer is one aggressive type of cancer that spreads much more quickly than many other forms. There are two types of small cell lung cancer, small cell carcinoma (sometimes called oat cell cancer) and combined small cell carcinoma. Because these two forms of cancer are very aggressive, it is crucial to begin treatment as soon as possible.

Quality Care Makes a Difference

Whether you or someone you love has received a diagnosis of cancer, it is important to tend to both physical and emotional needs. Seek both physical and psychological therapy, make nutrition a priority, do light exercise regularly. Most importantly, stay positive on your road to wellness.


If you would like to learn more about Pastoral Thanatology or care of the dying, please review our Pastoral Thanatology Program for more information and see if it matches your academic and professional needs to become certified in this field.

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