Cancer Care

Study Outlines Role of Kindness in Cancer Care

Others should be kind to people with cancer. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But a professor at Texas A&M thought the topic was important enough to warrant a study, and the results were recently published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

cancer careDr. Leonard Berry, Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M University, called his study “Role of Kindness in Cancer Care”, and in it he emphasizes that high tech treatments must be balanced by high touch care.

As such, he and his colleagues proposed six ways in which others can ease the pain of those on a cancer journey, especially those with aggressive (and likely fatal) forms of the disease, such as mesothelioma.

Deep Listening – Cancer patients need to know that they’re being both heard and understood. Truly listening allows caregivers and others around the patient to better address the emotional and physical needs of the patient.

Empathy –Empathy means to be aware, sensitive to, and to vicariously experience the feelings and emotions of another. Only when caregivers (both professionals and family members/friends) imagine themselves in the patient’s situation can they truly appreciate their circumstances and assist in alleviating suffering.

Acts of Kindness –These acts come in all shapes and sizes, from reading to the patient to offering to assist with everyday tasks to learning how to change dressings or otherwise assisting the patient with disease-related issues. It might also simply mean making a call or visit each day to check in on the patient.

Timely care – Things like waiting for test results or for treatment can be excruciating, points out Dr. Berry. He explains that providers need to offer care in a timely manner in order to help reduce the patient’s anxiety.

Gentle Honesty – Some cancer patients prefer to be left in the dark about their situation, but they are more the exception than the rule, Berry points out. The majority prefer that doctors and others around them be honest about their prognosis and other details. However, the study notes, it is preferable to temper that honesty with statements of hope and gentle expressions of empathy.

Support for family caregivers – It’s important that care givers receive kindness as well. When caregivers suffer, so does the patient. Hence, it’s important to have a Plan B when caregivers need a break or just can’t handle the mental stress of caring for a very sick or terminal patient any longer.