What is psycho-oncology?

Many patients experience psychiatric and physical symptoms related to their diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Symptoms such as adjustment disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) or "chemo brain", anger, nausea and vomiting, and poor energy often severely increase the suffering related to having cancer. Fortunately, these symptoms can be effectively treated by a psycho-oncologist.

The psychiatric care of patients with cancer requires both collaboration with the patient's oncology team, as well as familiarity with cutting-edge treatments within the array of oncology to provide patients with therapy and medications that are best suited to their needs.

The world of oncology is ever-changing, both globally, in the treatments available, and individually, with where patients are at in their journey. Dr. Sheehan tailors treatments, and rapidly adjust medications and therapies to meet you where you are at any point in time.

For Dr. Sheehan, there is no standardized "end date" to your psycho-oncological care. Patients often struggle more as they enter survivorship than they did during active treatment. Nor does she abandon your care if you transition into symptom palliation-focused treatment for your cancer. She will be there for you and your family and will ensure that what matters most to you stays central to your care.

" While I found great satisfaction in making large system changes as the Director of Psycho-Oncology at UNMC and the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, I realized that the work I personally valued the most occurred during my clinics, with one on one, direct patient care. After years of caring for patients with a wide variety of cancers, both in the inpatient and outpatient settings, I decided to take that experience from the world of Academia, and grow that work in my private clinic. This has allowed me to personally expand specialized psychiatric care for more patients struggling with cancer, with less geographical and logistical limitations."

Dr. Sheehan

Dr. Jimmie Holland was a founder of the field of psycho-oncology, which combines oncology and psychiatry. As a psychiatrist, she had long been interested in studying how people with otherwise good mental health responded emotionally and psychologically to life-threatening illnesses. She called this focus “psychological care of the medically ill.”

Dignity Therapy is a specialized therapy developed by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov. He designed an interview and discussion-based therapy to address many of the psychological, and existential challenges that patients and their families encounter at the end of a loved one's life.

This intervention gives patients a chance to record the meaningful aspects of their lives and leave something behind that can benefit their loved ones in the future. It helps conserve the dying patient’s sense of dignity by addressing sources of psychosocial and existential distress.

Dr. Sheehan is experienced in providing Dignity Therapy and believes it can help preserve meaning and hope for patients and their families.