Hospitals and oncology practices around the country are adding programs to help patients with a side effect of cancer that often goes unnoticed and untreated by doctors: emotional and psychological distress.
With growing evidence that distress can negatively affect patient outcomes, there's a new mandate to make screening for it part of routine care. Starting in 2015, the Commission on Cancer, which accredits centers that treat about 70% of all new cancers diagnosed in the U.S., will require providers to meet a new standard to evaluate patients for distress and refer them to programs for help.
More than half of cancer patients may suffer from distress, studies show-ranging from normal feelings of vulnerability and sadness to extreme, disabling anxiety and panic. Not only can such feelings interfere with the ability to cope with the rigors of cancer therapy, experts say, but they can lessen one's motivation to complete treatment. They can also interfere with the body's immune system and have a negative impact on the course of the disease.
One program the Commission on Cancer recommends to providers: CancerSupportSource, a new distress screening and referral program developed by the nonprofit Cancer Support Community. Using a Web-based, 25-item questionnaire, it asks patients to rate concerns in seven categories and identifies the type of support they want to receive, such as group meetings or one-on-one counseling, links to helpful websites or written information. (WSJ)