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Cancer conference draws link between psyche and illness

The Swiss League against Cancer is hosting a one-day conference that will bring together renowned scientists from across the country to address the psychological impact of cancer on its sufferers.

This content was published on November 2, 2000 - 11:51

The conference, taking place in Berne on Thursday, will unveil eight "psycho-social intervention models" to help cancer sufferers deal with their disease.

Jürg Bernhard, a psycho-oncologist and head of the Swiss Quality of Life Office, told swissinfo that roughly one fourth to one third of all cancer patients suffer from some form of psychiatric disease as a result of their illness.

He cites anxiety and depression as disorders that can be helped and improved through psychological intervention.

Bernhard says intervention requires a twofold approach. First, cancer sufferers and their families are taught how to reduce anxiety. Secondly, medical professionals are taught to communicate effectively with their patients in a way that lowers their levels of fear and anxiety.

It is a holistic approach that combines psychological therapy with medical treatment.

He adds that it is important to treat cancer sufferers on an individual basis, looking at each case and its circumstances separately. The benefits of psycho-social intervention vary from person to person, but Bernhard says pain and fatigue are among the physical symptoms which can be improved.

The conference will highlight and examine these issues through an exposé of research projects funded by the Cancer League, and via a round table discussion on the theme: "Psycho-oncology, revolution in the sickbed?"

Anna Nelson

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