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Psycho-Oncology Service

Psycho – Oncology Service, Galway University Hospital

The newly established Psycho-Oncology service in Galway University Hospital includes expert staff trained in Psychology, Medical Social Work and Nursing.

Psychological services within the psycho-oncology are provided by Dr. Natalie Hession, Principal Psychologist.  Dr. Hession provides psychological assessment, intervention and therapy to patients on the emotional challenges that may arise at all stages of their cancer journey.

Psycho-oncology is a specialty in cancer care concerned with understanding and treating the psychological, emotional, quality-of-life and functional aspects of cancer, from prevention through bereavement.

It is normal for patients to feel distressed when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. However, it has been reported that between 20-52% of patients show a significant level of psychological distress. It is known that psychological support and intervention at all levels can reduce psychological distress, improve the patient’s quality of life, lead to a better functional and emotional outcome, and facilitate a return to daily activities.

Who can be referred?
At this time, inpatients that are under the care of the medical oncology, radiation oncology and onco-haematology teams as well as outpatients under the care of the radiation oncology team.

Referrals are made through the medical team.

What difficulties can be addressed?
a) oncology specific needs including, but not exclusive to: adjustment to the diagnosis and treatment, body image difficulties, sleep difficulties, chronic pain, fatigue, sexual difficulties, relationship difficulties and psychological issues related to dying including existential issues and/or b) mental health difficulties including, but not exclusive to: low mood and anxiety difficulties, trauma, self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

Our psycho-oncology team delivers talks and workshops on many topics such as managing compassion fatigue, responding to strong emotions, living with advanced disease. As well psychological skills training for staff.

Psychology within Psycho-oncology are involved in several research programmes. For example, the investigation of the effectiveness of 'Emotional Focused Therapy' with cancer patients and have published widely on this topic.