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Facing Cancer and the Fear of Death: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treatment | Hardcover
Straker, Norman (Edt)
Jason Aronson / Rowman & Littlefield / Hardcover / 2013-02-01 / 0765709651
Mind & Body
price: $94.50 (may be subject to change)
170 pages
Not in stock - ships in 1 to 2 weeks.

In Facing Cancer and the Fear of Death: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Treatment, Dr. Norman Straker proposes that “death anxiety” is responsible for the American society’s failure to address costly futile care at the end of life; more specifically, doctors default on the appropriate prescription of palliative care because of this anxiety. This leads to unnecessary suffering for terminally-ill patients and their families and significant distress for physicians. To address these challenges in the culture of medical education, increased psychological support for physicians who treat dying patients is necessary. Additionally, physicians need to reach a consensus regarding the discontinuation of active treatments.

Psychoanalysts have traditionally denied the importance of death anxiety and report relatively few treatment cases of dying patients in their literature. This book offers multiple treatment reports by psychoanalysts that illustrate the effectiveness and value of a flexible approach to patients facing death. The psychoanalytic reader is expected to gain a greater level of comfort with facing death and is encouraged to consider making themselves more available to the ever-increasing population of cancer survivors. Further, psychoanalysts are encouraged to be more useful partners to the oncologists that are burdened by the irrational feelings of all parties.


This is a much needed and remarkable book that is a must read for all therapists who treat cancer patients, and those therapists who unexpectedly may be facing the prospect of their own mortality. The elegiac and moving narratives of analysts treating cancer patients, and analysts who become cancer patients themselves, can profoundly inform and shape the reader’s appreciation of the need for flexibility of technique in these situations. The reader will also derive great benefit from Dr. Straker’s summary conclusions and recommendations, distilled from these stories and from his thirty five years of experience as a psychoanalyst working in the field of psycho-oncology.

— Stephen M. Saravay M.D., American Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine

This book provides a deeply personal yet strongly academic perspective on the experience of cancer. Dr. Straker has assembled a group of professionals who openly share their knowledge and experience. The depth of Dr. Straker's scholarly understanding envelopes the other contributions and provides an informed psychoanalytic framework. The book will be valuable to those who work with cancer patients and will be extremely useful in the education of trainees.

— Philip Muskin M.D., Columbia University Medical Center

Anxiety over dealing with death and the dying process affects patients, their families, friends, and physicians, often leading to inadequate and unsatisfying management of this inevitable, natural life event. The results of not dealing with “the elephant in the room” can have long-term adverse consequences on the survivors, including the physicians caring for the patient. Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, guilt, and alcohol abuse may be the unfortunate legacies of dealing with death anxiety poorly. Dr. Norman Straker, who has devoted much of his career to managing the psychological needs of patients with cancer, as well as their families and caregivers, has produced a superb book on defining the causes and management of death anxiety. Using a combination of psychiatric theory, research results, and in-depth case studies, he and his colleagues present practical, flexible approaches to dealing with death and death anxiety in cancer patients. It is a book that will be especially useful to oncologists, radiation therapists, internists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and others who deal with death and dying.

— Glen D. Braunstein M.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center


Table of Contents

Chapter One: Where We Are Now The Avoidance OF Death, Its Consequences to Our Patients, Families, Medical Students, Young Physicians.
Norman Straker MD

Chapter Two: A Psycho Oncology Fellow’s Perspective On Facing Death
David Yuppa MD & Norman Straker MD

Chapter Three: Confronting the Fear of Death: Trying To Detoxify
Norman Straker MD
Two Memoirs
Dan Birger MD, Hillel Swiller MD


Chapter Four: The Denial Of Death by Psychoanalysts
Norman Straker MD

Chapter Five: Finding Meaning in Death: Terror Management Among the Terminally Ill
Molly Maxfield, Tom Pyszczynski & Sheldon Solomon

Chapter Six: The Psychoanalytic Literature On The Treatment Of Dying Patients
Norman Straker MD

Chapter Seven: An Update In The Psychoanalytic Treatment Of Cancer Patients Facing Death
Norman Straker MD


Chapter Eight: “That The Darkness Is About To Pass” The Treatment Of a Dying Patient
Abby Adams Silvan PhD

Chapter Nine: Guidelines to Live By and Rules To Break
John W. Barnhill MD

Chapter Ten: “Titration Of Psychotherapy For Patient And Analyst”
Alison C Phillips MD

Chapter Eleven: Psychotherapy With A Hospitalized Patient Dying Of Cancer
M. Philip Luber MD

Chapter Twelve: Being a Cancer Patient In Analysis, While Continuing To Work As An Analyst
Patricia Plopa PhD

CONCLUSION: Norman Straker MD

About the contributors

About the Editor:

Norman Straker, MD, offers an approach for facing death and the treatment of cancer patients based on 35 years of clinical experience. One of the original faculty members of the very first psycho-oncology services under the leadership of Dr. Jimmie Holland at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Straker is still engaged in pedagogy and research at the center. He also teaches at Weill Cornell College of Medicine, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. A psychoanalyst by trade, Dr. Straker has chaired the discussion group, “Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Cancer Patients” at the American Psychoanalytic Association for more than 25 years. He is in private practice in New York City.

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