Mindfulness in Cancer Care

The stress of a cancer diagnosis is evident to us at Turville Bay Radiation Oncology Center. This highly stressful event reveals itself in many ways including but not limited to distress, symptom burden, immune response, and mental health. Patients tell us they have trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, feel irritable, suffer stomach upsets, and even bouts of panic. All this in addition to the symptoms their disease carries. The combination of symptoms can significantly lower quality of life during and after treatment. It is our goal as healthcare providers and physicians to increase quality of life during this stressful time. One tool that’s proven effective is the practice of mindfulness.

The definition of mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness. Finding meditation-based stress reduction by learning, then practicing, meditative skills with awareness of breath, healing imagery, and deep breathing. Mindfulness is a way to achieve a state of mind that is aware and in control. This approach, in turn, reduces stress, improves physical health, and allows harmony in life.

Our use of patient centered care within Turville Bay has brought us deep appreciation of the practice of mindfulness combined with social support. Unleashing the power of the cancer patient’s mind allows them to partner with us in their treatment and recovery. We know that social support during severe illness can make a difference in a patient’s ability to cope. We’ve found that some patient’s turn their focus inward, shutting out those around them as they struggle to learn about their cancer, their treatment options and make decisions alongside healthcare providers. It’s a steep learning curve when the mind is racing and exhaustion sets in.

Social support alone is helpful but when combined with mindfulness in programs such as Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery, or MBCR, it seems to enhance outcomes. “At SSM Health, the healing power of presence includes guided support groups and talk therapy for those in need during and after cancer treatment,” says Dr. Anthony Rinaldi, a clinical psychologist with SSM Health in Madison. “Mindfulness can often be a powerful tool.”

Turville Bay’s radiation oncologists work intensively with SSM Health’s medical oncologists, surgeons, infusion specialists, comprehensive genetics and mental health professionals. Together, our healthcare teams work to heal patients and to improve the patient experience and the outcome. 

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6623989/