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Providing psychological support for adults living with cancer
  1. Louise Burzotta, Staff Nurse and
  2. Helen Noble
  1. Louise Burzotta is Staff Nurse, Elizabeth Loury Ward, Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, and Dr Helen Noble is Lecturer, Adult Nursing, City University, London. Email: Helen.Noble.1{at}


A cancer diagnosis generates fear and uncertainty for patients, families and friends. It can lead to the patient experiencing anxiety and, in some cases, depression. Nurses find caring for patients with cancer and their family/friends stressful, particularly with regard to providing psychological support. This may cause them to adopt ‘blocking’ behaviour to avoid emotional conversations with cancer patients and their relatives/friends. Patients do not always feel able to talk about their psychological concerns with healthcare staff as they feel staff are not interested in them. Nurses, therefore, need to form therapeutic relationships with patients and families and be attentive to emotional concerns. This article highlights the factors affecting nurses’ inability to provide psychological support to cancer patients and their families/friends and the key nursing skills required to develop therapeutic relationships with patients. Although the article concentrates on psychological support for people with cancer, its findings are relevant to all patients with life-limiting conditions. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Cancer
  • Communication skills
  • Family care
  • Nurse–patient relationship
  • Psychological support

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