Treating the whole patient and not only the disease
Two clinical psychology students at the University of Namibia this week returned from Rwanda where they attended an intensive cancer treatment academy focussing on the psychological foundation when treating patients with a potentially terminal illness.
Hambeleni Ndjaleka and Atty Mwafufya are in their second year of a masters degree in clinical psychology. Their chosen specialty revolves around complementary treatment of cancer patients. The academic duo’s study trip to Rwanda was sponsored by the Cancer Association of Namibia under its Family Support Centre programme.
They are currently completing their practica at the Mental Health Unit at the Windhoek State Hospital and work as volunteers in the Cancer Association’s Family Support Centre and Circle of Hope counselling programme.
“We are proud of our young volunteers who have been part of the CAN Circle of Hope programme since its inception, and now we are even more proud to support them and see them completing their studies and truly ploughing back into our Namibian community,” said Sister Christy Kavetuna of Cancer Association.
The two prospective clinical psychologists attend the 5th biennial training academy in Kigali conducted by the International Psycho-Oncology Society.
The academy covered many topics related to psycho-oncology, especially its role in detection, prevention, and strategies to reduce screening and treatment delays. Finally, students were guided in the very sensitive areas of existential psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer.
Hambeleleni and Atty said that they both share a keen interest in psycho-oncology, not only its practical application but also advancing the academic discipline through scholarly work.
Psycho-oncology focuses on behavioural research to address lifestyle and habits that could reduce cancer risk. It is also concerned with behaviours and attitudes necessary to ensure early detection. Another area of focus is the psychological issues related to genetic risk and testing. The discipline is also concerned with the management of the psychological component of palliative and end-of-life care. Most importantly however, psycho-oncology seeks to control psychological symptoms (e.g. anxiety, depression, delirium, PTSD, pain and fatigue) during treatment and to manage the psychological aftermath in cancer survivors.
Hambeleleni and Atty intend to train other volunteers using the skills they have learned in Kigali.