The diagnosis of cancer is devastating news to anyone. It is common for people with such a life-threatening illness to have feelings of fear, disbelief, anxiety and depression. The cancer victim’s family, friends and community act as a net of support to lessen the negative impact of the disease and its treatment. These non-medical support systems, executed primarily by family, not only act as medical advocates, they also are the main caretakers of the patient, and they are the ones who bring much inspiration and encouragement to the patient. A cancer victim’s quality of life is positively impacted by family support before, during and after a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer is a dynamic entity, affecting approximately 1.6 million projected new cases in the United States in the year 2014 (NIH). Over the course of a lifetime, women have a 38% chance of getting cancer and men have a 44% chance. Figure 1 reflects the probability of developing invasive cancers during age intervals, comparing the statistics of male verses female. Given these odds,
it is imperative to understand how to treat this disease. Doctors, nurses, and their vast staff know what to do medically and have training in the psychological aspects of dealing with the crisis and trauma of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. The emotional, spiritual, and psychological strength of the family of a cancer patient is a major support factor during the cancer diagnosis, duration of treatment and recovery process (Clay). However, it is the family support group that determines a cancer patient’s quality of life.
In terms of cancer treatment and survivorship, quality of life is defined as a “personal sense of well-being encompassing a multidimensional perspective that generally includes physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions or domains” (Quality of Life). The physical aspect pertains to the patients’ fertility, sleep, fatigue and pain. Anxiety, fear, anger and depression are part of the psychological factors. In the social domain are the factors of appearance, enjoyment, relationships and family distress. Factors included in the spiritual dimension are the patient’s ability to find meaning in their experience, inner strength and a sense of hope. These four areas of quality of life are enhanced by the cancer victim’s overall support system.
To understand the support a cancer patient needs, it is first necessary to understand the effects of the disease on the patient (Adler). Chemotherapy is a major component of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is defined as the treatment of a disease by the use of chemical substances (National Cancer). These chemical substances are not just eradicating cancerous cells, but healthy ones as well. The chemotherapy drugs lower the white blood cell count, the main fighter of foreign bodies in the human system. The drugs also attack the red blood cells and often wipe out all the neutrophils in the body....