Background. Caring for patients and families facing a diagnosis of cancer in Africa presents unique challenges. Economic and physical, access to specialist healthcare for cancer patients compounded by cultural and political barriers present major threat to patient’s sense of security and ability to cope with a cancer diagnosis.
Methods. A desk review, practice observations and interviews with key frontline caregivers on the psychosocial impact of cancer on patients and families as seen in African in the context of social, economic and political upheavals
Findings. A diagnosis of cancer has a devastating effect on family dynamics. In Africa where the incidence is predicted to triple in the next 15 years, the cancer epidemic is happening in the context of wars, poverty and other social economic challenges. Poor people with cancer suffer disproportionate physical, emotional psychological, and social distress.
Conclusions. Formal and informal carers must take cognizance of the fact that cancer patients in Africa maybe facing double tragedy of being refugees, slum dwellers or an internally displaced. These factors have a major influence on the patients ability to cope and must be considered in designing psychosocial interventions. The impact of a cancer diagnosis on individuals and families cannot be looked at from a psychological or emotional perspectives alone. It should be seen in the context of how the patient interacts with his social, economic and political environment
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