What we do

Here you will find information on the different services offered by the psycho-oncology team.

A Diagnosis of cancer can be a worrying and anxious time for anybody. It is quite usual to experience stress, worry and concern as a result of your diagnosis and treatment.

That is why, along-side the care you will receive from the doctors, nurses and other health professionals The Christie offers a dedicated and confidential psychological and emotional support service.

Common problems that people with a cancer diagnosis may experience are:

  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Loss of Control
  • Anger
  • Relationship problems
  • Depression
  • Changes in body image
  • Distress
  • Memory problems

The psychiatry team consists of a consultant psychiatrist a specialist doctor in psychiatry and registered mental health nurses.

We will see patients who are currently inpatients as well as offering out-patient appointments.

   We offer assessment and treatment for:

  • Patients who have begun to experience psychological symptoms secondary to diagnosis or treatment for cancer
  • Patients with depressive or anxiety disorders
  • Patients with psychotic symptoms who are not already under local mental health services
  • Patients with known mental health problems where there is a need for additional support while under treatment at Christie NHS Trust
  • Inpatients that are confused and are not responding to treatment as per the trust guidance for confusion.
  • Patients who require treatment for drug or alcohol dependence and who need assistance in accessing this from local services.

When you are affected by cancer, it may help to talk to someone who understands the effect cancer has on people’s lives.

Counselling offers you a time and place where you can explore your emotions and experiences in complete confidence. This confidential process can help you to identify problems, express your feelings and explore different ways of coping with the illness and treatment.

The counsellor is skilled in listening and in helping you to express yourself in a way that feels right for you. The regular sessions last up to an hour and the frequency will be discussed with your counsellor. Counsellors are impartial and may use a variety of approaches depending on your particular needs.

 Counselling may be helpful if you:

  • Struggle to cope with your diagnosis and treatment
  • Find that your life has been changed by your illness
  • Are distressed by changes to your body and appearance
  • Feel low and unable to enjoy life
  • Feel anxious and avoid doing things
  • Worry about the future
  • Find that your illness is affecting your relationship with your partner
  • Discover that illness is bringing up difficult memories of past experiences
  • Want to clarify your thoughts, consider options and make your own decisions.
  • Are having difficulty coping with loss or bereavement

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems through identifying the relationship between thoughts, actions and feelings.

There are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to most situations, depending on how you think about it. For example, when we feel low, our thoughts can be negative and unhelpful, we may stop doing things we used to enjoy and that in turn can make us feel worse. CBT breaks down problems into smaller, more manageable parts and through trying out different ways of responding, you can change how you feel.

The therapy focuses on difficulties in the “here and now” and you may be asked to keep a diary of your thoughts and feelings. By experimenting with different ways of responding to situations, you can discover actions to help improve your mood. CBT is interactive and in collaboration with the therapist, you will decide on the focus for each session and on homework to practise between the sessions. CBT aims to get you to a point where you can use your new skills to work out your own ways of tackling your problems. It has been shown to help with many types of problems including depression, anxiety, panic and phobias.


Many patients living with a diagnosis and/or beyond treatment for cancer will have sexual difficulties.

These can be because of the type of cancer and /or the treatments offered, as well as difficulties patients have in coming to terms with the issues that these sexual changes can cause. Patients with sexual and psychosexual issues can be assessed and seen within the psycho-oncology service by our specialist psycho sexual therapist.

Our clinical psychologist can offer specialist assessment and intervention for psychological difficulties including anxiety, depression, body image and the impact of traumatic events on your wellbeing.

Clinical psychologists are trained to doctoral level in psychology (the science of mind and behaviour) and apply their knowledge to an understanding of the problems that affect people from infancy to old age. We are not medical doctors and view conditions such as anxiety from a biological, psychological and social perspective in order to understand them fully.

At the Christie the psychologist offers a range of therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy, (CBT) and has particular expertise in the treatment of more complex cases and trauma, especially where psychological difficulties are preventing people from reclaiming their life after cancer.

The psychologist assesses the underlying causes of complex difficulties in terms of a person’s psycho-social history including impact of other negative life events. This identifies any deeply held beliefs a person has developed - about their selves, other people, relationships and the world around them. Understanding how you perceive your world helps us to consider how deeply held beliefs impact on your behaviour now and influence your reaction to a diagnosis of cancer, its consequences and its challenges.

In the Psycho-oncology setting we are particularly interested in pre-cancer adverse experiences and how they interact with your current problems, beliefs you have about health/wellbeing and illness, adverse events or reactions during diagnosis and treatment, and how these impact on your resilience and current coping strategies.

Whilst a psychological intervention cannot take away the adversity that comes with the consequences of a cancer diagnosis, its main aim is to identify and develop helpful resources and strategies for a better quality of life, in line with your personal values.

Dementia is common within the older population and is set to increase in prevalence over the next 25 years.

People with dementia or mild cognitive impairments tend to have poorer outcomes after surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy compared to patients who do not have such impairments.  These outcomes include; increased use of anti-psychotic medication, longer hospital admission, increased chance of discharge to nursing/residential homes and loss of skills and abilities.

The psycho-oncology team has a specialist nurse with expertise of working with people with dementia.  The team can provide an assessment of people with suspected dementia, memory problems or cognitive impairments and refer on to the most appropriate services in the community.  The team also provides advice and guidance to patients, carers and staff on; what dementia is, symptom management, risk assessment and management, discharge planning and management of behaviours that challenge.

These are some resources we have created to help people manage feelings of anxiety. These feelings and symptoms can include shallow breathing, increased heart rate and muscles tightening.

7 minute relaxation video

This is a helpful and easy technique to use when you are feeling stressed and anxious. By squeezing and releasing sets of muscles throughout the body, you can feel less tense and more relaxed. It’s like pressing a pause button on the feeling of anxiety in your body.

Standing breathing video

When we feel stressed and anxious, our breathing gets faster and shallower. This simple technique helps to slow it down. Standing up and moving the arms up and down, together with the counting helps to bring the attention into the present moment. Repeat it several times until you feel that you have slowed yourself down.

Last updated: February 2023