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Essay Paper on MOHO and Relaxation in Cancer

Introduction. Cancer is encroaching upon heart disease’s status as the number one killer of Americans. Nearly one million people are diagnosed each year with some type of cancer and will undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or a combination as an adjunct to surgery. Many of these patients report experiencing debilitating side effects to these treatments. Not only can the physical effects from the illness and the treatment be quite intense, the emotional and psychological impact of fighting cancer can be equally as stressful.
Penfold states that many patients, families, and/or caregivers may experience a degree of difficulty in accepting the diagnosis of cancer. As a result, unrealistic expectations about the patient’s functional abilities develop. This situation creates the need for an occupational therapist to address problems relating to their social roles, level of activity, and coping skills.

Approximately one million people report pain, both post operative and secondary to their medical condition. Along with nausea and vomiting, pain and fatigue impact patients’ quality of life and ability to cope with their illness. Alleviation of the severity of the pain and fatigue, therefore, is of primary importance in increasing these patients’ quality of life. It has been suggested that the use of relaxation and imagery techniques are important in reducing pain and fatigue as well as other chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced side effects in cancer patients. Before discussing the relevant literature, we will describe pertinent operational terms.

Kulich and Warfield define relaxation as “a skill building process wherein the patient learns a series of deep breathing, progressive muscle control, and cognitive and imagery techniques”. Imagery is described as “purposeful mental thoughts imagined to achieve a desired therapeutic”. References to side effects include pain, fatigue, depression, and reactive nausea and vomiting. In addition to reactive nausea and vomiting, some patients may experience anticipatory nausea and vomiting. This differs in that it occurs prior to medical treatment and is triggered by fear and anxiety. Palliative care, which attempts to ameliorate these side effects, is considered a “comprehensive, coordinated, and concentrated relief of both pain and suffering in terminally ill or incurably ill patients”.

Finally, Downer, et al. define complementary or alternative medicine as “a system of health care which lies for the most part outside the mainstream of conventional medicine.” In cancer treatment it is not enough to focus solely on the disease itself. The occupational therapist must consider the physical and psychological well being of the patient in the management of the illness. This holistic view is consistent with the basic philosophy of occupational therapy.

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