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Cancer care providers need to proactively address patients' psychological and social needs
Date:10/23/2007

WASHINGTON -- Cancer therapies save and prolong many lives, but they and the tumors they target also can exact a debilitating toll on patients' mental and emotional and cause health problems that typically are not dealt with during oncology treatment. Cancer care that focuses solely on eradicating tumors without addressing the patient's general well-being can increase patients' suffering, may compromise their ability to follow through on treatment, and falls short of achieving quality care, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

The report proposes a new standard of care under which all oncology care providers would systematically screen patients for distress and other problems; connect patients with health care or service providers who have resources to tackle these issues and coordinate care with these professionals; and periodically re-evaluate patients to determine if any changes in care are needed.

To achieve this standard, the report recommends an evidence-based model for ensuring that psychosocial health services are an integral part of cancer care and provides strategies for implementing this model in settings with varying levels of resources. The vision laid out in the report could apply to the care of other serious chronic illnesses as well, noted the authoring committee.

"Killing cancer cells is important, but it's not enough to ensure that the adverse effects of patients' therapies don't undermine their gains," said committee chair Nancy E. Adler, vice chair, department of psychiatry, and director, Center for Health and Community, University of California, San Francisco. "This report provides an action plan for overcoming the barriers to psychosocial health services that patients need to be as healthy and whole as possible during and after cancer treatment."

Many of the services and resources already exist, often at no cost to patients, but oncology providers are not proactively identifying p
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
Source:Eurekalert

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