Cancer Treatment is More Than Medicine | Takeda Oncology │ Leadership │ Article
Author: Teresa Bitetti, President, Global Oncology Business Unit
I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a colorectal cancer (CRC) survivor. It was a particularly poignant get together as this was the first time we had chatted at length since Takeda acquired the license for a promising treatment in CRC.
As my friend shared with me her personal experience with cancer, we also discussed the challenges faced by many beyond their initial diagnosis.
From financial and job insecurity, to depression and anxiety, to caregiving responsibilities – cancer treatment can be all-consuming. And while developing innovative medicines to treat cancer is at the heart of what we do as a pharmaceutical company, there is a lesser-known part as critical as the medicine – treating the whole patient. It’s this care beyond medicine where we have devoted more support in recent years.
Mental Health and Well-Being
A cancer diagnosis can take an incredible toll on mental and emotional health, and recognizing changes in mood and behavior are critical during the journey according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 35% of patients diagnosed with cancer are impacted by a psychiatric disorder, and another 20% experience clinically relevant distressing psychosocial conditions such as demoralization and health anxiety.1 Research has shown that cancer patients receiving mental health support have better outcomes.2 Unfortunately, while mental health support may be a key part of a patient’s treatment journey, it is not always incorporated.3
Fortunately, there are several ways patients can be supported as they navigate the physical and emotional aspects of cancer. I am impressed by the resources that many of our partner patient advocacy organizations such as CancerCare provide – including emotional, practical and financial support – to navigate resources and the underlying emotions associated with diagnosis and treatment.
While developing innovative medicines to treat cancer is at the heart of what we do…there is a lesser-known part as critical as the medicine – treating the whole patient. It’s this care beyond medicine where we have devoted more support in recent years.
Life Necessities and Obligations
A cancer diagnosis does not put life on pause. Patients may still need to feed themselves (and also family members), keep a roof over their heads, continue working, among many other aspects of life. Cancer is stressful enough without the added component of determining how to afford life.
Financial hardship impacts one in three patients diagnosed with cancer. And the risks disproportionality affect those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and working-aged patients.4 The anxiety and stress of affording basic necessities can lead to poorer mental health, which can lead to poorer outcomes, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Fortunately, organizations such as Family Reach provide resources to help patients navigate non-medical expenses. No one should have to make the decision to put treatment on hold to keep food on their table or the lights on at home.
In addition, patients may also be caregivers – to children, to aging parents, to pets – a role that does not disappear at cancer diagnosis. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically taxing even without managing a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Organizations such as Cancer Support Community offer resources to support dialogue between patient and those in their care as they navigate this journey together.
Cancer treatment is more than medicine. It’s the collaboration and commitment of many stakeholders to ensure that patients receive the care necessary to navigate their journey. At Takeda, I’m proud we partner with patient organizations around the globe – to raise awareness and provide support to help ensure the whole patient is being treated. This is the way we will truly reach our aspiration to cure cancer.
Caruso R, Breitbart W. Mental health care in oncology. Contemporary perspective on the psychosocial burden of cancer and evidence-based interventions. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2020;29:e86. doi:10.1017/S2045796019000866
Berchuck JE, Meyer CS, Zhang N, et al. Association of Mental Health Treatment With Outcomes for US Veterans Diagnosed With Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(7):1055-1062. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.1466
Oncology TL. Provision of mental health care for patients with cancer. The Lancet Oncology. 2021;22(9):1199. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00480-0
Smith GL, Lopez-Olivo MA, Advani PG, et al. Financial Burdens of Cancer Treatment: A Systematic Review of Risk Factors and Outcomes. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2019;17(10):1184-1192. doi:10.6004/jnccn.2019.7305