The International Psycho-Oncology Society:
Bringing Attention to the Psychological, Social and Spiritual Aspects of Cancer Care and Research
The International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS), founded in 1984, is the only international body devoted solely to the "human" aspects
of cancer care and research – the psychological, social, behavioral spiritual domains, which contribute materially to quality of life. These issues are especially important in resource-limited
countries where the treatment of cancer is largely palliative. IPOS recognizes that it is through collaboration with other international bodies that more attention, concern, education and training
can be achieved to improve the aspects of care. A close working relationship with the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care is important to meld a close tie to the global palliative
IPOS is presently petitioning the World Health Organization to become a WHO non-governmental organization, to harness the expertise of its multidisciplinary
members to contribute in critical areas of WHO global cancer control national programs, which have been developed for resource-rich and resource-poor countries. These programs target cancer prevention,
early diagnosis, treatment, pain and palliative care. Psychosocial issues cut across all of these areas and, as such, can potentially contribute to each of these efforts. For example, cancer prevention
and screening critically depends on understanding the cultural background, attitudes, language fears of outsiders, and concerns of a community. In cancer treatment, the control of pain, fatigue
and distress is often central to tolerating radiation and chemotherapy. When treatment is palliative, as it is in most developing countries, the major effort has been pain control, especially obtaining
narcotic analgesics. What has not received adequate attention is the need for better understanding of the emotional care of patients at home, and the need to support and educate families and to
combat the stigma and negative attitudes of some communities, especially where fear of cancer is high. IPOS is proposing to work closely with WHO in its global cancer control programs, to add this
cross-cutting issue of psychosocial care to its overall efforts in prevention, early diagnosis and screening, and treatment and palliative care.
Several other steps being taken are:
In conjunction with the European School of Oncology, a core curriculum of lectures on basic topics in psychosocial oncology is being translated into 5 languages,
having been developed in English, through the American Psychosocial Oncology Society. The curriculum will be available to anyone at no charge online at www.ipos-society.org
in 2005. At the 7th World Congress in Copenhagen in August 2004, plans began to add translation of these lectures into Polish, Russian and Lithuanian. We hope to work with the network of centers
of excellence in palliative care in Eastern Europe to support the mental health workers and expand psychosocial care.
IPOS has an active tie to the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), and the Pan African Psycho-Oncology Society (PAPOS). AORTIC,
through a Psychosocial/Quality of Life Committee, is committed to working with PAPOS, IPOS and International Cancer Training and Research (INCTR) pursuing these issues aggressively to assure that
they are a fully integrated part of palliative care in Africa, utilizing the nurses, palliative care doctors, workers and volunteers to enhance their basic knowledge of the psychological issues
and to give them the support of a network of people who are available to organize regional conferences and to organize traveling fellowships. There is a need to make these aspects of care more visible
and more compelling to policy makers in all countries, especially in Africa and India where scant resources are available and stigma is high.
For more information, please go to the IPOS website: www.ipos-society.org. We welcome your participation
and membership in IPOS, and we welcome ideas for new collaborations.
Dr. Jimmie Holland serves as the Liaison to National and Affiliate Societies, and she can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].
Jimmie C. Holland, M.D. Christoffer Johansen, M.D.
Founder, IPOS President, IPOS