Community Is Stronger Than Cancer
Loneliness Amongst Patients
The journey of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care can foster an incredibly isolating environment as patients are often isolated from their family, friends, and accustomed routines and social interactions. In addition to enduring the physical and mental burdens of the illness, days spent moving from one hospital bed to infusion chairs can leave patients removed and feeling disconnected from their community. The lack of relationships and social engagement while in oncological care have only been heightened by the social distancing measures enacted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Limiting visitors permitted in hospitals intensifies the isolation a cancer patient experiences. The changing landscape of healthcare in response to the pandemic coupled with the added stress of being an especially high-risk population to the circulating virus, has increased many feelings of distress that were already common among cancer patients. A review of the state of oncology during the height of COVID-19 pandemic found “the social isolation and the need to ‘stay at home’ cause loneliness, which is associated with a higher risk of mortality in cancer patients” (Tsamakis et al, 2020).
Benefits of Social Support
The staggering reality of this isolation prompts the need to empower the cancer community and unite patients, providers, and caregivers to foster a positive community. A community’s unification and bond can mitigate the emotional and mental challenges within cancer patients and caregivers. Cultivating a community of stronger social bonds increases positive outcomes in patients. In an observational cohort study, the perceived support systems of cancer patients were measured and assessed against various health outcomes. The conclusions made by the end of the study proved “hopelessness of the patients with breast cancer decreased with the increase in their social support. Therefore, activating patient social support systems is of importance in increasing their levels of hope” (Bener et al, 2017).
Creating a Strong Community
Working to increase awareness of the threat of mental health disorders in cancer patients as well as providing the appropriate resources, is a fundamental step in fostering a social network of people that care for cancer patients and their needs. This network will in turn breed positive health outcomes and lessen the isolation and loneliness that a chronic illness evokes. Proving that community is stronger than cancer is vital in the fight to support the emotional and physical needs of patients, providers, and caregivers.
1.Bener, Abdulbari et al. “Depression, Hopelessness and Social Support among Breast Cancer Patients: in Highly Endogamous Population.” Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention: APJCP vol. 18,7 1889-1896. 27 Jul. 2017, doi:10.22034/APJCP.2017.18.7.1889
2.Tsamakis, K., Gavriatopoulou, M., Schizas, D., Stravodimou, A., Mougkou, A., Tsiptsios, D., Sioulas, V., Spartalis, E., Sioulas, A. D., Tsamakis, C., Charalampakis, N., Mueller, C., Arya, D., Zarogoulidis, P., Spandidos, D. A., Dimopoulos, M. A., Papageorgiou, C., Rizos, E.”Oncology during the COVID‑19 pandemic: challenges, dilemmas and the psychosocial impact on cancer patients (Review)”. Oncology Letters 20.1 (2020): 441-447.