Addressing a patient’s emotional needs? This shouldn’t be a new concept!
Stress following a cancer diagnosis – or while learning to live with cancer, for that matter – is a major health risk for all of us. Not only does increased stress levels negatively effect our overall health, but many researchers believe that extended periods of stress can actually make our cancer worse.
So I guess this is a start. Better late than never!
New Help for Distressed Cancer Patients
By Laura Landro – August 28, 2012
Wall Street Journal Health Blog
New distress-screening programs for cancer patients aim to help with emotional and psychological issues that can interfere with treatment and adversely affect outcomes, as WSJ’s Informed Patient column reports today.
Kim Thiboldeaux, chief executive of the Cancer Support Community — formed in 2009 by the merger of Gilda’s Club and the Wellness Community — tells the Health Blog that with the program, distress screening and referral can be easily done at oncology practices and hospitals where the majority of cancer patients get treatment.
While large cancer centers have resources to help patients with such issues, in community settings, distress screening “is almost nonexistent,” Ms. Thiboldeaux says.
The impetus for designing the program was the 2007 Institute of Medicine report, Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.
In it the IOM called for distress screening to become a standard of care for all patients, and the Commission on Cancer, a consortium led by the American College of Surgeons which accredits cancer centers and practices, recently established a new standard requiring providers to offer distress screening for all patients by 2015.
The Cancer Support Community was one of several nonprofit patient-advocacy groups that helped the commission develop the new standard, and Cancer Support Source is one of the tools that the commission suggests doctors can use to meet the standard.
Using a 25-item web-based questionnaire, it asks survivors to rate their concerns, and then provides the patient with a personal- care plan with information and referrals for support services which can be emailed or printed. Their doctors get a summary score of a patient’s results, including alerts to help staff direct patients to help.
In addition to providing the screening free at its own facilities, Cancer Support Community is licensing it to oncologists and hospitals for a fee based on usage.
Rina Correa, 52, a second grade teacher in the Atlanta area, went to the local Cancer Support Community looking for support and education after undergoing a hysterectomy for stage 1 cervical cancer last year.
Single and living alone, she had kept her concerns to herself, as her daughter-in-law’s mother had died from breast cancer the prior year and Ms. Correa says she didn’t want to put any additional stress on the family with her own cancer diagnosis. A volunteer recommended the distress screening program.
“Just answering the questions was really therapeutic for me, and realizing there were things I’d pushed to the back of my brain got me focused back on my own health and healing,” she says.
A counselor at the Cancer Support Community also helped her prepare for a meeting with a new oncologist. “I was able to go over my options feeling more secure and confident,” says Ms. Correa. She also took advantage of other suggested programs including exercise, nutrition and cooking classes, to allay her concerns about being strong enough to get through her treatment.
I’m a big supporter of using therapy to help cancer patients, survivors and especially caregivers. That’s one reason why I believe support groups are so important. Gathering with others that face a similar challenge can be therapeutic in itself.
But most of us don’t seek one-on-one counseling. For many, this can be a big mistake!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat