NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Distress, Version 1.2017
What help is there?
Mental health services
Mental health services
Your cancer care team may refer you to a mental
health professional. There are many types of mental
health professionals. Examples include clinical social
workers, psychologists, advanced practice clinicians,
psychiatric nurses, and psychiatrists. The work of
these professionals overlap but their expertise varies.
Your cancer care team will refer you to someone who
is a good fit.
The first step of care is often an evaluation to assess
the problem. Evaluations differ between people
based on the type of distress. Evaluations can
consist of one or more of the following: interviews,
surveys, and testing.
Based on the evaluation, your provider will make a
treatment plan for you. Research has shown that
mental health treatment works well to reduce distress
and improve quality of life among people with cancer.
The common types of mental health treatment are
Psychoeducation is a learning event for people
with specific types of distress or health conditions.
The focus of the event may be general, such as
on stress management. Other events may have a
specific focus, such as sun protection for people with
There are many methods to deliver psychoeducation.
One method is one-to-one teaching. Group
psychoeducation is also common. Besides in-person
learning, you may receive reading materials, DVDs,
and online resources.
Some people need eyeglasses to function better.
Likewise, some people need medicines to function
better. Psychiatric (or psychotropic) medicines are
drugs that improve mental health. These medicines
work by changing the amount of certain chemicals in
the brain. Psychiatric medicines can be prescribed by
psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, oncologists, and in
some states, psychologists.
There are different types of psychiatric medicine.
They are grouped by how they are commonly used.
However, be aware that some medicines have other
uses. An example is an antidepressant that can also
help some women with hot flashes. The common
classes of psychiatric medicines are listed next.
. These medicines treat depression.
Two key features of depression are feeling down or
irritable and losing interest in things that you used to
like. Depression that is present at cancer diagnosis
or during treatment may last a long time. There is
strong proof that antidepressants work well to treat
Antidepressants may be used with psychotherapy
to treat depression. Antidepressants also treat
anxiety and certain physical problems. Such physical
problems include nausea, hot flashes, pain, and
sleep problems. Read
to learn more
. These medicines may be used with
psychotherapy to treat anxiety. They are also called
anti-anxiety medicines. Key features of anxiety