Treatments and tests

Psychological support for people affected by cancer

The WA Psycho-Oncology Service (also known as WAPOS) provides clinical psychology care to adult Western Australians who are affected by cancer – people diagnosed with cancer and immediate care-giving family members.

Understanding distress in cancer

Cancer can involve many new and challenging experiences which can be distressing for the person diagnosed with cancer, and family members.

Everyone’s experience of and response to cancer is unique. It is common to experience feelings (e.g. fear, sadness and anger), worries, and temporary changes in appetite, sleep and motivation. This can be a normal and healthy response to the stressful aspects of cancer.

About a third of people experience distress and suffering that is more intense, persistent and overwhelms their coping. This may disrupt relationships, activities, and cancer treatment. Cancer-related issues such as fatigue, pain and nausea may also be affected by distress. People in this situation may benefit from working with a Clinical Psychologist to get unstuck and back on track.

To read more about distress in cancer visit Cancer Australia (external site) and Beyond Blue (external site).

How can a clinical psychologist help?

A clinical psychologist, as a member of your cancer care team, can assist with a broad range of cancer-related difficulties. Some examples include:

  • physical concerns such as pain, nausea and eating difficulties
  • tiredness and sleep problems
  • adjusting to body changes e.g. speech, thinking, sexuality
  • depression and anxiety
  • disruptive fears about cancer recurrence or about dying
  • relationship challenges
  • coming to terms with prognosis
  • goal setting and recovery plans.

Couples can also meet with a clinical psychologist to specifically focus on their intimate relationship, e.g. communication, conflict, role changes, and sexual intimacy.

Clinical Psychologists apply psychological theory and evidenced-based assessment and treatment strategies to help people address their needs and meet their goals.

These approaches are tailored to a person’s unique situation and typically involve discussion and practicing skills in and outside of the session.

Who can use this service?

This service is available to adult Western Australians diagnosed with cancer and immediate, care-giving adult family members.

People affected by breast cancer should contact a member of their treating team to discuss alternative clinical psychology services.

Do I need a referral?

Yes – you need to be referred by a health worker. Any health worker (public or private) can refer you. View our Electronic Referral Form (Word 195KB).

We recommend you discuss your needs with the health worker first. They will help you to consider a variety of service options to match your current needs. Your health worker can also contact us for help with this decision making. If they are not aware of our service, or you do not have a health worker who can refer you, please contact us so we can facilitate a referral.

Following receipt of a referral, our Duty Officer will contact you to discuss your referral, answer any questions you have and provide information on alternative services.

Unfortunately, due to high demand and limited resources, referred persons may need to go on a waiting list for an appointment.

Is there a cost?

The service is provided free of charge to Medicare eligible Western Australians. Those who do not qualify for these entitlements may be charged.

Where are the services provided?

Statewide outpatient clinical psychology services are provided from:

  • Fiona Stanley Hospital, Cancer Centre
  • Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Inpatient services are also available at these hospitals.

Telehealth and phone services are available for people living outside Perth.

Please telephone 6457 1177 or email WAPOS for more information.

Statewide Outpatient Clinic

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
DD Block Level 1
Hospital Avenue
Nedlands WA

Fiona Stanley Hospital Cancer Centre
Ground Level, Main Hospital Building
102-118 Murdoch Drive
Murdoch WA

Phone 6457 1177 for clinic appointments.

Postal address:
WAPOS
Internal Mailbag 93
SCGH Locked Bag 2012
Nedlands 6009
Phone: 6457 1177
Fax: 6457 1178
Email: wapos@health.wa.gov.au

How can I provide feedback?

We are committed to quality improvement and building a service that meets the needs of people affected by cancer and other stakeholders, including health workers and services.

We welcome your feedback via telephone 6457 1177 or by emailing WAPOS.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
  • Cancer Council information and support on 13 11 20
  • Cancer Nurse Coordination Service on 9222 0202
  • Crisis Care on 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008 (freecall)
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Mental Health Emergency Response Line:
    • Perth Metro Area on 1300 555 788
    • Peel Region on 1800 676 822
    • RuralLink WA on 1800 552 002

Acknowledgements

WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital – Medical Specialties Division


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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