Cancer Patients In Need of Psychological and Social Support

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine addresses the toll that cancer therapies have on patients' mental and emotional state that may potentially cause other health problems. Cancer treatments save and prolong many people's lives; however, care that focuses solely on eradicating tumors without acknowledging a patient's well-being can increase the patient's suffering and affect their ability to follow through on treatment. The report proposes that oncology care providers use a new standard of care that accomplishes three goals: screen patients for distress and other problems, coordinate and connect patients with health care or service providers who can treat these problems, and periodically re-evaluate patients to determine if patient care needs adjustment.

Committee chair Nancy Adler claims, "Killing cancer cells is important, but not enough to ensure that the adverse effects of patients' therapies don't undermine their gains." Many of the services and resources already exist, but oncology providers are not identifying patients' individual needs and helping them utilize these resources. Many of these psychosocial needs range from information about cancer therapies and the potential side effects, to treatment for depression, stress, and other mental or emotional conditions.

Patients' also need assistance with daily activities they can no longer perform independently and need further aid with transportation, prosthetics, medications, and other supplies they cannot afford or have no easy access to. Addressing psychosocial health needs in protocols, standards, and programs could change how health care approaches treatment for other serious chronic illnesses as well.


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