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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Distress, Version 1.2017


What help is there?

Social work and counseling

Social work and counseling

This section describes services for practical or

psychosocial problems. Social workers are the

main providers of these services. However, patient

navigators provide help for certain practical problems

at some cancer centers. The mental health services

described in the next section may also be of help for

practical or psychosocial problems.

Practical problems

As described in Part 2, practical problems may relate

to illness, food, money, work, school, language,

and caregiving. Education, support groups, and a

resource list may be enough help for mild problems.

Read Part 4 for a list of online resources. At support

groups, you will hear about the experiences of other

people with cancer. You may learn some new ways

to deal with practical problems.

For complex practical problems, education may

be very helpful to you and your family. You may

also benefit from learning problem-solving skills

and receiving counseling. In addition, your social

worker may take a very active role in linking you with

community resources and be your advocate. He or

she can help you obtain the support you need from

other organizations.

Psychosocial problems

Psychosocial problems include a wide range of

issues. You may have trouble adjusting to being sick

or with making decisions. Cancer may worsen your

quality of life or cause unwanted changes to your

body. Having cancer may also force the need to get

an advance directive and deal with end-of-life issues.

Psychosocial problems can also involve conflicts

within your family or with others.

You and your family may find it helpful to learn more

about the problem you are dealing with. Your social

worker may have information for you or may refer

you to an educational group. Likewise, counseling

and support groups that provide guidance may be

of help. Counseling may focus on a specific topic

like sex or grief. Like practical problems, help for

psychosocial problems may come from community

resources. For complex psychosocial problems, your

social worker may refer you for chaplaincy care or

mental health services.

Initially you’re doing everything you

can to survive and you can kind of

get used to that and you’re constantly

fighting and then after a while, you

get a chance to pop your head above

water for a little bit, and look around,

and you see all the people who are

trying to throw you flotation, trying to

help you keep your head above water

and not sink and yelling out words of

encouragement to you – and so … you

keep going.


Brother of a Cancer Survivor