NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Distress, Version 1.2017
The cause of distress greatly differs
across people. In turn, the help for
distress varies based on need. Part 3 is
an overview of the common types of help
for distress among people with cancer.
Having cancer is very stressful. While absorbing the
fact that you have cancer, you have to learn about
tests and treatments. This information is important,
as you will be deciding a treatment plan with your
doctor. After treatment, you may have more doctor’s
visits and tests for a long time.
Learning about cancer and its treatment may reduce
your distress. During your cancer journey, your
cancer care team will likely use many medical words.
Most of these words may be new to you, and it may
seem like a lot to learn. Don’t be shy to ask your
team to explain a word or phrase that you do not
There are many resources to help you learn about
cancer. Your cancer center may have an information
center that can provide information. Some cancer
centers have a patient navigator program. Patient
navigators sometimes help people learn more about
NCCN has a growing library of patient resources.
This library includes theNCCN G
and theNCCN Quick Guide™
resources are a good starting point from which to
learn the best options for cancer care. Your cancer
care team can provide more information to help you
make treatment decisions. VisitNCCN.org/patients
for resources on cancer screening, cancer treatment,
and supportive care.
Spirituality or religion is important to many people.
People use spiritual and religious resources to cope
with cancer. Furthermore, there is a link between
health and spirituality and religion. Data from
multiple studies showed that spirituality and religion
are related to better mental health. Also, attending
religious services was related to fewer deaths from
any cause including cancer.
Many people with cancer have spiritual needs. A
chaplain can help you whether you have strong
beliefs, different beliefs, conflicted beliefs, or no
beliefs. Chaplains provide help for grief, guilt, and
hopelessness. They can also address concerns
about treatment, death, the afterlife, the Divine,
and the meaning and purpose of life. You may
want a chaplain to help you talk with your religious
community, family, or treatment team.
Chaplains provide a range of services. They provide
spiritual counseling. Your chaplain will listen to
your concerns and provide advice and guidance as
needed. You may receive more guidance or comfort
through reading. Your chaplain may suggest a good
reading resource to you.
Many people say prayer is a major help with dealing
with cancer. Your chaplain can pray with you and
pray on your behalf. Likewise, he or she can help get
your ritual needs met. Your chaplain may be able to
perform a ritual such as communion (Eucharist). If
not, he or she can contact clergy of your faith.
Chaplains can serve as a contact between you and
others. If you want, your chaplain can help you talk
with your faith community. If you are not a member
somewhere, your chaplain can help you connect with
a local community.
What help is there?