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Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care

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The WPA-Section on Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care is  dedicated to fostering psychiatry,  mental health, and behavioral sciences within all the fields of oncology and palliative medicine.


The psycho-oncology standards of care endorsed by the WPA-section on Psycho-Oncology and psychiatry in Palliative care affirms that:

  1. Psychosocial cancer care is a universal human right;

  2. Quality cancer care must integrate the psychosocial domain into routine care;

  3. Distress should be measured as the 6th Vital Sign after temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, and pain.


The WPA-Section on Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care  is committed to:

  • collecting and disseminating pertinent scientific information on the psychosocial concomitants of cancer for patients and their families;

  • establishing working relations with other scientific organizations in the field of psycho-oncology and palliative care both at national and international levels;

  • organizing or supporting scientific meetings, workshops, symposia, lectures on specific topics relative to the area of psycho-oncology and  palliative care in national and international congresses;

  • developing educational materials, including papers, books, (electronic or power point) slides and podcasts, etc. .

Section Officers


LUIGI GRASSI - Chair - Psycho-oncology &

Luigi Grassi

Address: Institute of Psychiatry, University of Ferrara, Via Fossato di Mortara 64 , 44121 Ferrara, Italy    
Phone: +39 0532 455813
Fax: +39 0532 212240


Michelle Riba - Co-chair - Psycho-oncolo

Michelle B. Riba

Address: University of Michigan, Department of Psychiatry, 4250 Plymouth Road, Room 1533, R.U.B., SPC 5769, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5769, United States of America    
Phone: +1 (734) 9368326



Daniel McFarland

Address: University of Rochester, Department of Psychiatry and Wilmott Cancer Center, 601 Elmwood Ave., Rochester, NY 14642

Phone: +1 (585) 275-5830

Fax: +1 (585)-273-1042


>> Please click here to see the Section Members list

Section Activities

Books from the Section


Clinical Psycho-Oncology: An International Perspective

Written by: Grassi L., Riba M.

Published by: John Wiley, Chichester, 2012

This book, promoted by the Section on PO & PC and by the section of Psychiatry in Medicine of the WPA has been recently published and addresses the principal behavioral and psychological problems associated with cancer. Where appropriate, it adopts a broader, multicultural perspective, in line with the aim of the World Psychiatric Association and the Federation of Psycho-Oncology societies. With a Foreword by the pioneer in psycho-oncology, Professor Jimmie Holland, who founded both the International Psycho-Oncology society and the section on Psycho-Oncology of the WPA, the book consists of 22 chapters written by the most renowned psycho-oncologist worldwide, giving the book a true international and multicultural perspective.  The book is designed to be easy to read and to reference, with information clearly displayed in concise tables and boxes accompanied by further detail within the text. The editors aim to provide an indispensable tool for junior doctors in training in either psychiatry, psychology or oncology, general practitioners, community psychiatric nurses, palliative care physicians and other members of the multidisciplinary team.


Psychopharmacology in Oncology and Palliative Care - A practical manual. Springer-Verlag

Written by: Grassi L., Riba M.

Published by: Heidelberg, 2014 (Translated into Italian, for Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, Rome, 2020)

This practical manual presents the main drugs and protocols currently used in the psychopharmacological treatment of psychiatric disorders in cancer and palliative care settings and explores the principal issues involved in such treatment. Significant clinical challenges encountered in the psychopharmacological management of various psychiatric conditions are discussed, covering aspects such as side-effects and drug-drug interactions. Attention is also paid to the emerging theme of adjuvant use of psychotropic drugs for the treatment of symptoms or syndromes not primarily related to psychiatric disorders. In addition, practical suggestions are provided for dealing with special populations, including children and the elderly. The book is designed to be easy to read and to reference, with helpful concise tables and boxes. The chapters have been written by experts in the field, ensuring interest for all those working in psycho-oncology, i.e. oncologists, palliative care physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioral scientists, clinicians in surgery, medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics and radiotherapy.  clinicians working in the field of psycho-oncology.


Person-centered approach to recovery in medicine. Insights from Psychosomatic Medicine and Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry

Written by: Grassi L., Riba M., Wise T.

Published by: Springer-Verlag, New York, 2018

This book offers a resource to aid in implementing psychosocial screening, assessment, and consequently integrating prevention, care and treatment (i.e. pharmacological, psychosocial rehabilitation and psychotherapeutic) in medicine. It is becoming increasingly recognized that one method of combating spiraling health care costs in developed nations is to integrate psychiatric care into medicine including primary care settings. This volume reviews the main issues relative to the paradigm of a person-centered and recovery-oriented approach that should imbue all medical areas and specialties. It proposes integration methods in screening and assessment, clinimetric approach, dignity conserving care, cross-cultural and ethical aspects, treatment and training as a basic and mandatory need of a whole psychosomatic approach bridging the several specialties in medicine. As such, the book addresses a topic that all physicians, including primary care and psychiatric professionals in a wide variety of mental health settings are currently discussing, planning and preoccupied with, namely the task of integrating mental health into all the medical fields, including  primary care, cardiology, psychiatry, oncology and so on.


Depression, Burnout and Suicide in Physicians. Insights from Oncology and Other Medical Professions

Written by: Grassi L., Riba M., McFarland D.

Published by: Springer-Verlag, New York, 2022

This book provides a reference and contextual basis for depression, burnout and suicide among oncology and other medical professionals. Oncology as a medical subspecialty is at a unique apex of this crisis. While the same pressures in medicine certainly apply to oncologists, oncology is particularly stressful as a changing field with diverse patient and societal expectations for outcomes. In addition to experiencing the stress of caring for patients that could succumb to their cancer diagnoses, these professionals are regularly confronted with an onslaught of new medical information and a landscape that is changing at a breakneck pace. These are just a few factors involved in the increasing rates of burnout among oncologists as well as other medical professionals. By addressing a gap in identifying mental health problems among health care professionals, this book sheds light on mental health problems and suicide among physicians. Importantly, this book is a call to action of the professional and administrative organizations to work on improving mental health of physicians. Anxiety and depression affect not only the individual doctor but also patient care. Given the increasing attention to these issues along with limited yet applicable data regarding how to address these issues, the text aims to bring the latest data face to face with consensus opinion and can be used to ultimately enhance oncologic and psychiatric practices. Written by experts in the field, Depression, Burnout and Suicide in Physicians: Insights from Oncology and Other Medical Professions aims to significantly increase awareness and contribute to understanding the necessity of preventive measures on individual, family, and care-givers levels.

The Complex Role of Patient Trust in Oncology

Written by: McFarland D., Grassi L., Riba M.

Published by: Springer-Verlag, New York, in press

Patient trust is vital to the practice of medicine. A diagnosis of cancer and the inherent vulnerability require trust in treating physicians, institutions, and the medical establishment. Breaches of trust on clinical and research fronts (e.g. Tuskegee, Willowbrook) created public backlash, distrust, and interests in new avenues of alternative treatments, for example. Many well-intentioned, well-informed patients forego standard cancer treatments and opt for complementary, alternative, or no additional treatment. While these choices are certainly an expression of autonomy and self-determination, the medical community tends to overlook the ethical implications of patients who freely opt out of care. Therefore, many of these situations are not accounted for by the medical literature. This book will attempt to explain the role of patient trust in the doctor-patient relationship and its implications for the receipt of appropriate medical care using cancer care as a specific application. In the modern era, we face a medical audience armed with online information, salient opinions that may or may not be applicable to the medical situation, incredulousness, and even disdain. As a medical community, we have not figured out how to effectively communicate in this era of mass information and with the subpopulation of patients who fundamentally lack trust in physicians and the medical community.   This book provides a comprehensive description of the complex role of trust in oncology with its many facets with clinical implications where they may exist. Authors are encouraged to approach their chapters creatively drawing from multiple and multidisciplinary literature sources.


Other initiatives


Luigi Grassi and Michelle Riba edited an issue of the Journal Psycho-Oncology (Volume 30, Issue 12, December 2021, pages: 1995-2098)  focusing on cancer care among patients affected by severe mental illness (SMI) (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, severe depressive disorders). The aim of this issue is  to explore cancer health disparities and inequalities among people with SMI, mortality from cancer, problems of communication between multidisciplinary oncology and psychiatric teams and need for more structured intervention (i.e., screening, prevention, treatment). Authors from eight countries contributed. The problem of stigma and barriers to cancer care provision for patients with SMI were studied (e.g., the complex nature of SMI and healthcare providers' misunderstanding of SMI). Key barriers were related to both patients, clinicians and institutional problems, such as fragmentation of care. A higher mortality from cancer and poor knowledge about cancer risk-factors was shown in patients with SMI. Models of intervention were also proposed. Several conclusions have been recommended by the authors, such as the need for guidelines and clinical procedures specific for cancer care in mental health settings; large-scale studies to address the disparities of care in people with SMI; a larger vision of psychosocial oncology as the facilitator of the liaison between oncology and psychiatry.

Downloadable at


Educational material


Educational material can be found at the International Psycho-Oncology Society  (IPOS) core curriculum in psycho-oncology in 10 languages (


Liaison with other societies


Relationship with the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) and the Federation of the National Psycho-Oncology Societies. The Section on PO & PC has favored the cooperation with IPOS (  which is now an affiliated society of the WPA.


Relationship with the International College of Psychosomatic Medicine (ICPM). The section  has activated the cooperation with the ICPM ( as the World society of psychosomatic medicine.


Relationship with the  European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine (EAPM). The section  has activated the cooperation with the EAPM (  for common interests in the area of C-L psychiatry for patients with cancer or in advanced stage of illness

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