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Families Facing Cancer Do Better When Emotional Support Is Provided

“You have cancer.”

Every day 5,000 people in the United States will hear those devastating words. In fact, cancer will affect an incredible one in two men and one in three women in the United States, and the number of new cases of cancer is set to nearly double by the year 2050. While most patients will receive the news of their diagnosis in a medical setting, the impact of cancer on a person’s health is not just medical. 

Yet it was not until 2008 when the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their groundbreaking report, “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs,” that the non-medical impact of cancer was acknowledged. This report concluded that, “it is not possible to deliver good-quality cancer care without addressing patients’ psychosocial health needs,” and recommended that all “patients with cancer and their families should expect and receive cancer care that ensures the provision of appropriate psychosocial health services.”

Cancer impacts all aspects of a patient’s life not only their physical health. Patients and their families may experience psychological distress, financial loss, career changes, relationship issues, and even spiritual crises. Not addressing these issues and focusing solely on medical treatments all affect a patient’s ability to fight their disease and have a high quality of life.

Support services to address these issues have been recognized as vital by leading organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, the Oncology Nursing Society, and the Association of Oncology Social Workers. In fact, research has shown that support services can help to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety, facilitate sound sleep, manage side effects, decrease pain and nausea, and increase adherence to medical treatments.

Unfortunately, despite the IOM report from 2008, most cancer patients and their families still do not receive comprehensive psychosocial and practical support. A recent survey from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship showed that while most cancer patients say they discussed “what to expect post-treatment with their provider,” far fewer received information about “exercise and nutrition, long-term side effects, or mental health support.”

Cancer Support Community was established to support people facing cancer in our community and provides comprehensive integrative care, including counseling, support groups, nutrition, exercise, and patient education programs for people with cancer and their families. These free services enable cancer patients to effectively manage their treatment and recovery, increase their chances for survival, reduce their chances of recurrence, and provide for the highest possible quality of life.

Working together with their healthcare team and non-profit organizations like Cancer Support Community, cancer patients and their families should expect and receive critical support services so they can become healthier, live longer, and live better.

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