Meeting the Psychosocial Needs of Cancer Survivors

Meeting the Psychosocial Needs of Cancer Survivors

Cancer SurvivorsPeople who have fought cancer and won often assume they’ll pick up right where they left off, but life after cancer isn’t always that simple.

Psychosocial issues such as stress and depression often arise following diagnosis and treatment for cancer and must be addressed by care providers.

More than 10 million Americans today are living with a current or past diagnosis of cancer. And while advances in biomedical care have greatly extended life expectancy for individuals with cancer, providing high-quality care for the psychological and social effects of cancer needs much greater attention.

To address this issue, in 2007 the American Institute of Medicine formed a committee to study the diverse psychosocial services needed by community-dwelling cancer patients and their families.

The committee reported that both cancer survivors and their caregivers said care providers failed to understand their psychosocial needs, or recognize and adequately address depression and other symptoms of stress.

Living with a diagnosis of cancer can create a great deal of emotional stress.
Treatment, the fear of a relapse, and the physical distress often associated with a cancer diagnosis can create new or exacerbate existing distress.

What’s more, physical and psychological impairments can lead to significant social problems.

Addressing the psychosocial health needs of the cancer patient must be an integral part of overall cancer care, and the committee has made recommendations to that end.

According to their recommendations, all cancer care should:

  • Facilitate effective communication between patients and care providers.
  • Identify each patient’s psychosocial health needs.
  • Design and implement a plan that:
    ▪ Links the patient with needed psychosocial services.
    ▪ Coordinates biomedical and psychosocial care.
    ▪ Engages and supports patients in managing their illness and health.
  • Systematically reevaluates and adjusts plans.

And although cancer patients might receive care from a variety of healthcare practitioners, the committee believes that all clinicians should address psychosocial health needs as part of their practice. Oncologists can and should lead the way in addressing these needs.

In the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago, we are fortunate to benefit from the Jennifer S. Fallick Cancer Support Centers in Homewood and Mokena, which offer a full range of support, counseling and educational services to help cancer patients and their loved ones cope with the emotional, psychological and social effects of cancer.

Ingalls has long been a supporter of the Cancer Support Center in Homewood and are proud to have actively collaborated with the center to open a second location in Mokena.

Thousands of Ingalls cancer patients and others have benefited from the services of the Cancer Support Center in Homewood over the last 15 years, and we’re pleased to help the center in its mission to reach out to cancer patients and their loved ones in the southwestern suburbs through the newest satellite location in Mokena.

At both locations, cancer patients and their loved ones can choose from a variety of completely free, professionally designed programs, including a resource library; cancer prevention, screenings and education; individual and family counseling and guidance; exercise and wellness programs; stress management; expressive arts; nutrition classes; social events; support groups; and grief support.

Only those who have been diagnosed with cancer and undergone its treatments can truly understand the physical and emotional impact that cancer has on every aspect of their life, but we as caregivers must make every effort to give them the support and the resources necessary to address all of their needs, physical, emotional and social.


By Mark F. Kozloff, M.D., Medical Director of Ingalls Cancer Research and Comprehensive Cancer Care Program, with locations in Tinley Park and Harvey. For more information, please call 1.800.221.2199.


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