About this Research Topic
Neuro-oncology is a rapidly growing field concerned with scientific developments and clinical applications related to neuroscience, neuropsychology, cancer and oncology. Neuro-oncological disorders include cancers that directly affect the central nervous system (CNS), such as brain tumours and brain metastases, and non-CNS cancers with treatments that produce neurocognitive impairment (e.g., mental fatigue, attention and memory problems).
To date, the biological mechanisms and neuropsychological effects of brain tumour and cancer have been the dominant focus in neuro-oncology literature. It is well recognised that neurocognitive impairments arise from a complex interaction between physiological, medical, and psychosocial factors, and hence multi-level interventions are needed (Noggle & Dean, 2013). In terms of psychosocial aspects of care, people’s understanding of their diagnosis and symptoms and how they cope with their illness has a major influence on their emotional adjustment. Subjective reports of physical, cognitive, behavioural and mood symptoms are found to be more closely related to quality of life than objective indices such as neuropsychological test performance (Ownsworth, Hawkes, Chambers et al., 2010).
Neuro-oncological disorders pose a threat not only to people’s survival and existential well-being, but also their independence and self-identity. High rates of depression and anxiety or clinically elevated mood symptoms have been consistently reported in neuro-oncology samples, with distress found to persist or even increase over time for a significant proportion. Cancer can also place strain on relationships and compromise the physical and mental health of family members, which in turn impacts on their ability to provide sustained support to the person with cancer (Ownsworth, Henderson & Chambers, 2010).
Despite the high psychosocial morbidity associated with brain tumours, a recent meta-analysis of psychological interventions for adults with cancer did not identify trials specifically targeting brain tumour patients (Faller et al., 2013). The development and evaluation of psychological and supportive care interventions for people with brain tumour is an area of emerging research and of high interest to health professionals working in the field. In addition, there is now a quality standard in North America and internationally for cancer care facilities to provide assessments of patient distress and appropriate interventions with deadlines for action in the coming year (Holland, Watson & Dunn, 2011). Hence, there is currently an urgency to provide a practical evidence-based text on the unique needs of people affected by brain tumour and emerging intervention approaches.
The proposed Research Topic aims to enhance understanding of the psychological and social consequences of brain tumour and other cancers impacting neurocognitive function. It also aims to showcase new developments in psychosocial intervention approaches. Topics from contributors will span the following areas:
1) Physical, cognitive and emotional effects (e.g., fatigue and sleep disturbance, memory and other cognitive impairments, depression and anxiety, existential distress) and quality of life;
2) Caregivers and family support interventions;
3) Communication and assessment approaches for health professionals (e.g., patient-health professional communication regarding cognitive difficulties);
4) Psychological and cognitive rehabilitation interventions; and
5) Applications of quality standards in psycho-oncology to neuro-oncology.
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