News & media

Treatment program for traumatic stress

13 September 2010

It can be hard to cope with the news that you have a disease, especially cancer or other life-threatening disorders. Many people feel terrible after receiving such news – but research shows that it is possible to prevent and alleviate psychosocial conditions in patients and their loved ones.

Scientists in the recently launched research project U-CARE are working to spread this knowledge, via a treatment program on the Internet, among other means. The program is being run in a collaboration involving 30 researchers at Uppsala University – in caring sciences, clinical psychology, medicine, economics, and health economics. Together they aim to uncover new ways to combat psychosocial illness in connection with somatic (bodily) diseases.

“We are developing an Internet platform and treatment programs to be conveyed via the platform and will be measuring the effects, not only in psychological terms but also economic. All of our specific fields of expertise will be needed,” says Louise von Essen, professor and U-CARE coordinator.

The foundation is the research that has been pursued at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences for the last 20 years regarding psychosocial care in connection with cancer. It has been shown that a severe crisis in connection with serious diseases can in fact lead to emotional development.

Each year some 300 children develop cancer. This means that some 600 parents a year are told that their children have cancer.  Roughly one third of them have difficulty coping with this and suffer traumatic stress. This can be expressed as recurrent compulsive thoughts and memories and various physiological stress symptoms, such as feeling tense and irritable.

“It’s normal to react in this manner, but for some people the way they cope with the stress actually aggravates the situation. We want to teach concrete skills that can be used for dealing with traumatic stress,” explains Martin Cernvall, a doctoral candidate and one of the researchers working with the program.

In Sweden there are six oncology centers for children, and the project is collaborating with five of them: in Uppsala, Gothenburg, Lund, Linköping, and Umeå. Through these centers, parents receive information about the treatment program and can make contact if they wish to participate.

The advantage of using the Internet is primarily that it makes the program available to more people.

“Cancer care for children is highly specialized and is available at only a few places. Many people live far away from the hospital and find it difficult to be in continuous contact with one place. This system is more flexible,” says Martin Cernvall.

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U-CARE Research Program
U-CARE is a care research initiative that brings together psychology, health economics, and systems science and has been granted strategic funding from the government. The objective is Internet-based psychosocial treatment programs for patients and their loved ones. Clinicians and researchers in caring science, psychology, oncology, and cardiology are collaborating with researchers in informatics and media, as well as economics. The first treatment programs are calculated to be in place by the spring of 2011.

Caring Sciences