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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Distress, Version 1.2017


What is distress?



Distress is linked with a number of negative factors.

This section describes some of the outcomes of

distress and other factors that are linked to distress.

These negative factors are some of the reasons why

distress screening and treatment are so important.

By definition, being distressed isn’t pleasant


Feeling lousy doesn’t make coping with cancer any

easier. You have enough on your plate learning about

cancer, going through treatment or follow-up care,

and doing your everyday duties.

Distress may affect how well you function

. It can

interfere with sleep. You might sleep less or more

than normal. Distress may affect how well you can

focus. You may need to ask people to repeat what

they said because you lost track. Distress may affect

how well you relate to people. You may pull away

from others. If you have children, you may have

trouble taking care of them.

Distress may interfere with your health decisions

or actions

. Research found that people who are

distressed are less likely to take their medicines as

their doctor prescribed. Likewise, distressed people

are less likely to attend their follow-up visits. As a

result, you may make extra visits to the doctor’s

office and emergency room. If you’re distressed, you

may also have trouble making treatment decisions

and be less likely to exercise and quit smoking.

Distress may worsen your health

. Distress leads

to poorer quality of life. It may even have a harmful

impact on your length of life (survival). Keep reading

this book to learn about distress screening and

getting help.

It’s hard to deal with all of the things

that happen at once, and not to just

collapse and worry and stress.


Wife of a Cancer Survivor