Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Social Work Intervention in Thanatology Cancer mention  
SOCIAL WORK INTERVENTION IN THANATOLOGY CANCER MENTION  
INTERVENCIÓN DEL TRABAJO SOCIAL EN TANATOLOGÍA MENCIÓN CANCER  
1
Andrade-Constante Alison Nicole  
2
Núñez-Paredes Evelyn Marlene  
3
Pino-Loza Eulalia  
1
2
3
ABSTRACT:  
This study was carried out with the purpose of investigating the role of the social worker in the field of thanatology  
in Ecuador and the possibility of looking for spaces from social work for professional intervention directed to the  
patient diagnosed with cancer, the family and/or person who accompanies in the disease process. It is the beginning  
of an investigation of the intervention of social work in thanatology mention cancer in Ecuador, the research was  
developed with the aid of 15 respondents, staff of the cancer hospital Solca Núcleo Tungurahua and volunteer  
patients.  
Keywords: Intervention, Thanatology, Social Work, Disease, Patient diagnosed with cancer.  
RESUMEN:  
El presente estudio se realizó con el propósito de investigar el papel del trabajador social en el campo de la  
tanatología en Ecuador y la posibilidad de buscar espacios desde el trabajo social para la intervención profesional  
direccionada al paciente diagnosticado con cáncer, la familia y/o persona que acompaña en el proceso de  
enfermedad. Es el inicio de una investigación de la intervención del trabajo social en tanatología mención cáncer en  
el Ecuador, la investigación se desarrolló con la participación de 15 encuestados, personal del hospital oncológico  
Solca Núcleo Tungurahua y pacientes voluntarios.  
Palabras clave: Intervención, Tanatología, Trabajo Social, enfermedad, paciente diagnosticado con cáncer.  
Recibido: 28 de septiembre de 2020; Aceptado: 04 de enero de 2021; Publicado: 08 de enero de 2021.  
42  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Andrade-Constante et al. (2021)  
1
. INTRODUCTION  
The interest in this subject arose during  
lessons of Social Work and Mental Health of  
the career of Social Work at Universidad  
Técnica de Ambato and when performing  
pre-professional practices at the Solca  
Núcleo Tungurahua oncology unit in which  
new concerns emerged about the role of the  
social worker in a patient diagnosed with  
cancer.  
The human being needs to relate and  
maintain personal ties for its full  
development, these ties come to be broken  
in the face of a loss, it is when the emotions  
about grief or losses arise. The way of coping  
varies according to the ability to get back to  
life, assimilating and managing emotions,  
denial, anger, negotiation, depression and  
acceptance, a fundamental part of the  
professional intervention that guides the  
patient to know the right moment to  
regularise emotions, in this way avoids a  
negative impact to the people around the  
patient and also prevents them from  
developing illnesses regarding their mental  
health, or that the diagnosed illness worse,  
despite people prepare in advance of the  
event, people cannot stay calm, our brain  
when being in this situation is blocked and in  
most cases, it is usual to go into a state of  
shock.  
“Cancer is the second cause of death in the  
world; in 2015, it caused 8.8 million deaths.  
Nearly one in six deaths in the world are due  
to this disease". (Organizacion Mundial de La  
Salud (OMS), 2018)  
The Solca Oncological Hospital, with a core in  
the city of Quito and Guayaquil, leads an  
intervention linked to the area of  
thanatology called palliative care. However,  
it seeks to highlight the role of social workers  
in the face of loss processes of people, in this  
case, the loss of health, in the country the  
thanatological field has been very little  
addressed, nor has it been collected in the  
stages that make up a loss and grief from the  
point of view of thanatology and  
intervention of Social Work.  
Currently, it is intended to promote social  
work in thanatology to provide an adequate  
and comprehensive intervention in the  
psychosocial field in patients with cancer.  
43  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Social Work Intervention in Thanatology Cancer mention  
Background  
Thanatology is considered as the scientific  
knowledge of death, its rites and meaning,  
considering the human being as an integral  
person from the bio-psycho-social and  
spiritual points of view, therefore, it is  
multidisciplinary and cares for people close  
to death, patients diagnosed with cancer as  
well as those around them, the patient, their  
family, and the health team.  
In past times, thanatology was centralized in  
patients with complex diseases to treat,  
which had to assimilate the possibility of  
facing death. Currently, its meaning is  
broader, thanatology helps to process and  
give meaning to irreversible events such as  
death, but it is also linked to significant  
losses such as loss of health, this loss, in turn,  
produces changes in the life of the person,  
changes to which the person is not prepared.  
All these events lead us to a grieving process.  
Thanatology focuses on any significant loss  
that the human being has, that is why the  
importance of Thanatology today it is  
indisputable, considering that throughout  
our lives is common to face various types of  
losses, deaths, separations, loss of limbs,  
loss of health, illusions before a disability,  
which is why its field of action is highly  
broad. (Mariño, 2006, p. 10)  
Duels are a process, a normal, dynamic, and  
active process but not a state; it is an  
intimate and private process but at the same  
time a public process (rituals, mourning).  
Grief is  
a
process that tends to  
reorganization and elaboration, with  
individual dimensions, familiar and social.  
Thanatology studies everything treated with  
losses not only with death losses of all sorts,  
acquisitive losses, losses of freedom, loss of  
health, losses, or estrangement at the family  
level. In the specific case of cancer,  
throughout the whole process of the  
disease, a series of losses occur. The lifetime  
of a person with cancer is altered after its  
diagnosis by clinical studies analysis,  
aggressive and lengthy treatments that may  
(Valentin, 2005, p. 5)  
One of the pioneer countries in forging a  
thanatological field is Mexico, the Mexican  
Association of Thanatology AMTAC, (s/f)  
that its main objective is to cure the pain  
related to death and hope, whether of the ill,  
their close relatives, etc. So that they do not  
have suicidal behaviors aided by timely  
intervention.  
include  
surgery,  
radiation  
therapy,  
44  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Andrade-Constante et al. (2021)  
chemotherapy, etc. and the side effects of  
the author Álvarez, (2011) implies  
recognizing and understanding the reality of  
the other and get involved in it, rather than  
requiring the other person to get involved in  
our approach of seeing things.  
the same treatments. In this manner,  
radically altering his life and that of his family  
as it used to be, added to the fact that many  
times the person did not feel so sick as he  
feels from the moment they start to treat  
him, starting from the diagnosis the patient  
goes through a process of change which, as  
a result of his loss of health assumes his  
illness, but is not considered the family,  
social and emotional situation of the person,  
in the process is fundamental to have  
specialised psychosocial support not only  
directed to the patient but also to the family.  
Social Work and Thanatology  
The significant importance of thanatology as  
a service in hospitals has been analyzed, in  
this way Social Work professionals obtain  
the power and opportunity to provide  
emotional, psychosocial support to patients  
and family members who are going through  
a process of grief. Although the professional  
work of the Social Worker focuses on  
seeking well-being in the different areas of  
the life of social actors, promotes  
development through intervention models,  
techniques, and instruments without  
discrimination of no nature always looking  
for the best conditions in the face of  
deficiencies, problems, and human needs.  
The objective of social work in this area is to  
identify and intervene in the social factors  
that affect the health conditions of the  
eligible  
population  
through  
a
methodological process aimed at promoting  
that the user population participate in the  
development of promotional actions,  
protection, conservation, and recovery of  
health based on their needs.  
Social work is a professional activity that  
takes place with intervention in demanding  
situations. This action is necessary, on the  
part of the social worker, the knowledge and  
understanding of complex reality with  
multiple references that is characterized by  
a continuous change. (Robertis, 2003, p. 73)  
Thanatological Accompaniment  
Accompaniment in the thanatological aspect  
requires  
a
set of skills such as  
communication skills, empathy, active  
listening knowing how to accompany. For  
45  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Social Work Intervention in Thanatology Cancer mention  
Thanatology in oncology hospitals is of great  
importance as both Social Workers and  
other professionals can provide emotional  
support to patients and family members  
who are going through loss of health. The  
Social Worker promotes the common good  
through the sense of justice towards any  
individual or group, with equitable and  
professional treatment, thus seeking  
improvements in the population and  
generating skills to promote the self-  
sufficiency in people. It is necessary to allude  
to professional secrecy to face problems,  
needs and deficiencies of the user, so it is  
required to save stealthily all kinds of  
information, fulfilling professional duties,  
regulations, and functions with honesty in all  
acts within the professional field.  
-
For the collection of information, it is  
essential to design and apply the typical  
techniques and instruments of Social  
Work.  
-
It is necessary to handle statistics as  
a tool that facilitates the analysis of  
information.  
-
For the improvement of living  
conditions, is necessary the organisation  
of the population.  
-
Guide the population towards  
solving problems.  
-
Address group and individual  
problems.  
-
To identify social problems, it is  
necessary to develop a diagnosis and use  
the human and material resources that  
facilitate the solution of the same.  
Social Work intervention strategies  
Application of the specific methodology,  
whether it is in care of individual or groups  
and communities. Thus, offering strategies  
and alternatives for a viable solution.  
The specific functions performed by the  
social worker consist in:  
Preventive: immediate action on the causes  
that generate problems, whether individual  
or collective, derived from social and human  
-
It is necessary to have an objective  
observation of the humans' phenomena,  
thus using the technique of observation  
and recording facts and phenomena of  
social reality.  
relations.  
Prepares  
and  
executes  
intervention projects to populations at social  
risk and lacking in the application of human  
rights.  
46  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Andrade-Constante et al. (2021)  
Direct attention: the objective of this  
function is to promote the development of  
people's skills and abilities to deal with  
problems on their own or future difficulties  
and successfully integrate into society.  
Responds to the care for individuals or  
groups who are at risk of developing  
problems of social nature.  
professionals from other fields of  
science.  
-
-
Receive, guide, and educate individuals,  
families, groups, and communities in the  
peaceful resolution of conflicts through  
dialogue.  
Participates in the design, creation, and  
administration of programs about  
occupational health, occupational  
welfare, and social security.  
Planning: it is the action of guiding and  
leading to an action plan following the  
objectives set, established in a specific  
program with advance through a reality  
analysis process.  
The process of accompanying thanatological  
social work in oncological units, “is carried  
out through therapeutic workshops, home  
visits, both individual and family  
psychotherapy if necessary, camps, playful  
and recreational accompaniment and other  
activities with a therapeutic foundation”  
Mediation: The Social Worker acts as a  
catalyst to make possible, with their  
intervention, the resolution of the conflict.  
Supervision: Execute control over the tasks  
performed by professionals in different  
areas for the full practice of their functions.  
(
García, 2019, p. 7)  
2
. MATERIALS AND METHODS  
Evaluation: The techniques, means and  
times used are considered to contrast the  
results obtained in different actions  
concerning the proposed objectives to  
indicate errors and dysfunctions in what has  
been done to allow rethinking the objectives  
and new ways of achieving it.  
The methodology used in the research is  
mixed, that is, qualitative and quantitative  
due to the way the information is collected,  
it is also bibliographic because it is a  
systematic and sequential process of  
collection, selection and analysis of  
bibliographic content, descriptive research  
was applied to know specifically the  
possibility of looking for spaces for the social  
-
Know, manage, and promote existing  
resources among users and  
47  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Social Work Intervention in Thanatology Cancer mention  
worker and the challenge of the professional  
facing the thanatological field in oncological  
units.  
Tungurahua Hospital, Oncology area and  
patients who voluntarily decided to  
collaborate in this research, the following  
results were obtained:  
Subjects of study  
63.6% of people surveyed know the  
term of thanatology, however, they do  
not associate it with social work, 27.3%  
of the respondents do not know the  
term and 9.1% do not clearly  
understand the term. It is worth  
mentioning that the term is not  
precisely related to social work and its  
intervention, since in ancient times it  
was exclusively related to the series of  
circumstances surrounding the death of  
a human being.  
It was possible to survey 15 people  
immersed in the Oncological field of the  
Hospital Solca Núcleo Tungurahua and  
patients who decided voluntarily to  
collaborate with the investigative process.  
The sample was non-probabilistic because  
the selection of the subjects was based on  
own judgments of the research on social  
work and thanatology mention cancer.  
Techniques and Instruments  
The process was carried out through online  
surveys, the survey was structured by the  
researchers which consist of 7 questions  
with the objective to inquire about the  
thanatological field in social work and the  
importance that people give to grieving  
processes, prepare people for losses and  
accompany in the family-patient process  
since the patient is diagnosed.  
After defining the term thanatology and  
its relationship with social work for the  
respondents, 100% of the respondents  
consider important the intervention of  
the social worker since the patient is  
diagnosed with cancer up to palliative  
patients, as it is a discipline that studies  
the phenomenon of death in human  
beings and focuses on the circle of care  
or support system of the patient.  
3
. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION  
According to the results collected in the  
surveys carried out at the Solca Núcleo  
48  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Andrade-Constante et al. (2021)  
Additionally:  
conception that provides the patient  
with an additional treatment to  
medicine that seeks a deep conception  
of all human nature supported in a  
multidisciplinary way.  
63.6% of the people surveyed consider  
that it is important to try to work in the  
thanatological accompaniment so that  
the patient accept their reality,  
emotions, that the patient adapts to the  
new circumstances, close the circles,  
seek improvement in their quality of life  
and if it is the case, prepare them for  
death, 18.2% of those surveyed consider  
important to work with the patient to  
accept their reality 9.1% consider it  
necessary to work with emotions and  
From the surveyed staff, 45.5%  
considers that in the intervention of  
social work and thanatology should  
encompass comprehensive holistic care,  
2
7.3% of the people surveyed consider  
the care efficiently and effectively,  
7.3% consider that the intervention of  
2
social work and thanatology encompass  
quality care.  
9
.1% close the circles. Considering the  
objectives of thanatology that focus on  
the quality of life of the patient, helping  
the family cope with the situation and  
face the loss of health, carefully  
developing a grieving process.  
Regarding the intervention of social work  
and thanatology within the oncological field,  
it encompasses several spheres of  
intervention from this perspective about  
holistic care providing a professional service  
from social work considering the person in  
an integral manner combining treatment,  
medicine, diet and psychosocial factors with  
effective and efficient care and with quality  
care around the patient with palliative  
diagnosis and people who go through a loss  
of health with a cancer diagnosis.  
According to the perspective of the  
survey participants, 63.6% consider that  
the intervention of social work in  
thanatology satisfies the psychosocial  
need of the patient, 18.2% of the  
respondents consider the social  
environment, 45.5% consider the family  
environment  
and  
27.3%  
the  
100% of the surveyed participants  
consider necessary the intervention of  
social work in thanatology for diagnosed  
psychological part. Thanatology is part  
of a socio-emotional and psychosocial  
49  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Social Work Intervention in Thanatology Cancer mention  
patients with cancer and/or palliative  
diagnosis.  
comprehensive holistic intervention of the  
worker in thanatology since the patient is  
diagnosed with cancer.  
The role played by the professional in social  
work with a thanatological approach is a  
determining factor in the quality of the  
service offered to the cancer patient, the  
intervention of the Social Work of  
Thanatology in oncological hospitals is  
limitedly addressed in Ecuador, hence the  
need to survey the population immersed in  
this ambit in which the surveyed group  
considers necessary.  
In the international literature there is  
information on the thanatology and social  
work, however, in Ecuador social work from  
the thanatological point of view is lowly  
addressed and much less for the oncological  
units.  
5
. RECOMMENDATIONS  
To the students and professionals of social  
work are recommended:  
4
. CONCLUSIONS  
Carry out other intervention and research  
processes that address aspects related to  
these new realities that people diagnosed  
with cancer and their families deal, as in the  
country there is limited research carried out  
in the field of Thanatology and the  
intervention of the Social Worker.  
Thanatology and the role of social work is of  
vital importance when providing support to  
the patient with a cancer diagnosis, the  
palliative patient, and his family, preparing  
them in that stage of their life helping in this  
process by supporting with strategies and  
relevant techniques of the profession with  
the intention of prioritising a process of  
adaptation to the changes that occurred  
because of the patient's diagnosis.  
To the colleges and careers of Social Work:  
Include in the curriculum or study plans,  
workshops about the role that meets the  
Social Worker in the Palliative Care Unit. It is  
recommended carry out training on topics  
that cover the new realities to reinforce  
professional work and keep up to date.  
The results of the applied surveys  
demonstrate the interest that the personnel  
selected have for this process of the  
oncological unit Solca and patients on the  
50  
Revista Científica y Arbitrada de Ciencias Sociales y Trabajo Social ‘‘Tejedora’’: Vol. 4 (Núm. 7) (ene-jun 2021). ISSN: 2697-3626  
Andrade-Constante et al. (2021)  
To palliative and/or oncological care units:  
https://www.who.int/es/news-  
room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer  
It is recommended to open future  
professional and pre-professional practices  
that allow knowing more about this action  
field due to in the country the intervention  
of the Social Worker in Thanatology is a  
novel or unknown field.  
Robertis, C. d. (2003). Fundamentos del  
trabajo social: Ética y metodología:  
ética y metodología. Nau Libres.  
Valentin, G. C. (2005). El duelo migratorio.  
UNAL, 7, 77-97.  
BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES  
Álvarez, A. M. (2011). Términos básicos de  
tanatología. de  
http://www.tanatologia-  
amtac.com/descargas/tesinas/37%2  
Obtenido  
0
2
Terminos%20basicos%20de%20la%  
0Tanatologia.pdf  
Asociación Mexicana de Tanatología  
AMTAC). (s/f). Tanatología Amtac.  
(
García, L. T. (2019). Acompañamiento  
Psicosocial en padres y pacientes.  
Universidad de Pereira. Obtenido de  
https://repository.ucc.edu.co/bitstre  
am/20.500.12494/15070/2/2019_ac  
ompanamiento_psicosocial.pdf  
Mariño, M. B. (2006). ¿Qué es la  
Tanatología?  
Revista  
Digital  
Universitaria, 7(8), 10-10. Obtenido  
de:  
http://www.revista.unam.mx/vol.7/  
num8/art62/ago_art62.pdf  
Organización Mundial de La Salud (OMS).  
(2018).  
Obtenido  
de:  
51