Dealing with cancer often causes considerable stress for those affected and their relatives.

The field of psycho-oncology deals with the connections between the disease and its effects on life as a whole and offers those affected and their relatives targeted support in coping with the changed life situation.


  • Fears about the future, fears about the course of the disease
  • Fears of pain and/or chemotherapy
  • Depressive symptoms such as low mood, lack of energy and loss of enjoyment of activities
  • Chronic fatigue

Up to six out of ten people experience severe psychological stress over a short or long period of time as a result of their cancer. This stress can affect all areas of life and limit the quality of life. Around one in three of those affected express a desire for psychosocial support.

Both the cancer and the treatment can cause a wide range of physical, psychological, social, spiritual and religious problems. This is why psycho-oncology is just as much a part of the treatment plan as surgery or chemotherapy. It should be offered to all patients with cancer at every stage of the disease.

Body, psyche and environment influence each other

Psychological stress is often linked to physical complaints. Pain, exhaustion (fatigue) or physical dysfunctions such as diarrhea can affect the psyche. The risk of psychological impairment due to cancer is higher in younger patients, with severe physical complaints, if the prognosis is unfavorable, with a history of mental illness or with exhaustion (fatigue).

Certain drugs used to treat cancer also sometimes have a side effect on the experience by triggering anxiety or promoting depressive moods.

Conversely, the psyche also has an effect on the body: stress, depression or anxiety often lead, for example, to an increased perception of pain, a rise in blood pressure, diarrhea, grueling sleep disorders or sexual problems.

Because the body, psyche and social environment of every person form a unit. Each of these three factors can influence the other two, both positively and negatively. However, there is no such thing as a “cancer personality”, i.e. people who are prone to cancer due to their character traits. This assumption is outdated and disproved.

Counseling and therapy

In an initial consultation, the needs of patients and their relatives are clarified and further care is determined in collaboration with the interdisciplinary treatment team of the respective clinic. An individually tailored psychological or psychiatric offer is made, which can range from individual counseling sessions to intensive psychotherapy. If necessary, counseling and therapy are combined with drug treatment. The aim of treatment is to alleviate mental suffering and improve quality of life.

Possibilities and limits

Psycho-oncological treatment …

  • Supports in coping with the illness
  • can improve your mental state
  • looks for individual strengths that can help in difficult times
  • helps with accompanying problems associated with the diagnosis or therapy
  • Strengthens social support and helps to (re)participate in social life
  • Improves the quality of life of those affected and their relatives
  • can take place primarily through conversation or also through artistic expression, for example through painting or music
  • is an offer and of course voluntary

A therapist discusses something with her patient


Psycho-oncology is an integral part of the Comprehensive Cancer Center Zurich, which comprises all certified tumor centers at the University Hospital.

Close cooperation with the somatic clinics enables us to offer our patients optimal treatment. Once a week, we take part in the tumor boards of various specialist disciplines. The various specialists in the individual fields develop a treatment plan based on the information available.
There is also close cooperation with the Swiss Cancer League and in particular the Zurich Cancer League, which is expanding the outpatient services of the University Hospital to include a specialized service for children of parents with cancer. We also maintain a network with psychotherapists in private practice in the canton of Zurich who specialize in supporting oncology patients, as well as the Palliative Care Competence Centre.

For patients

As a patient, you cannot register directly for a consultation. Please get a referral from your primary care physician, specialist.

For referrer

This offer is aimed at people between the ages of 18 and 65. Simply assign your patient to us online.

University Hospital Zurich
Department of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine
Culmannstrasse 8
8091 Zurich

Tel. +41 44 255 52 52
Assign online

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