Psychosocial influences on cancer

Published: 10 Nov 2015

Personalized healthcare means that increasingly responsibility is placed on the patient, but we must not forget that some patients are better than others at taking responsibility.  A person’s underlying personality plays a key role here.

John Magnus Roos is a doctor of psychology and design researcher at the Veryday design agency. At the Stanford Medicine X conference in September, he presented a summary of 18 independent research studies with over 1,500 participating patients around the world, which all point to the same conclusion: that a patient’s personality traits affect their cancer treatment to a much greater extent than has previously been reported.

Patients who are anxious by nature become even more anxious when diagnosed with cancer and need support to be able to focus rationally on their treatment; if the patient is also introverted and displays reduced affect, there is a great risk of passive behaviour, where the clinical picture and emotions are pushed aside, both for the patient themselves and for others.

Psychosocial influences on cancer 301x270pxJohn Magnus Roos thinks that healthcare, including doctors and healthcare staff, needs to take these conclusions on board and that healthcare in general needs to be better at taking into account the psychosocial aspects, such as personality traits and individual coping strategies, so as to avoid some patients receiving worse care than others in the future.

An important objective in cancer care should be to support patients to have greater involvement in their own care and how this is achieved will vary depending on the patient.

Producing advanced measurement methods and diagnostic tools is a step forward, but to do this the developers must take into account the different personality types during the process. Taking into account groups that perhaps are not equally willing to measure themselves is important for the successful further development of personalized healthcare.

The most important thing is to get patients to feel that they have control over the situation and the ability to influence it. This can be achieved by focusing on a goal and by experiencing inner strength. Emotions and social relationships are good, but these must not be allowed to take over. It does not work particularly well to have either too strong a focus on emotions or a lack of them.

If Sweden wants to achieve better cancer care, it is important that this care takes into account the psychosocial aspects. It is clear that because of their personalities, patients need different support with both the cancer diagnosis and treatment. Patients need different help to achieve a controlled strategy for dealing with their illness.

If you’re interested in this topic, read also “How to succeed with patient-driven adherence” by Laura Almenberg, Senior Design Strategist.

For the the full version of the study “Psychosocial influences on cancer: A Meta-Analytic Review” please contact John Magnus Roos +46 730 482 227 or magnus.roos@veryday.com.

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