Helping Cancer Survivors

Triumph Over Stress and Depression

People who have fought cancer and won often assume they'll pick up right where they left off. But life after cancer isn't always that simple.

Psychosocial issues like stress and depression often arise and must be addressed by care providers, says Mark Kozloff, M.D., medical director of the cancer program for Ingalls Health System in Tinley Park and Harvey.

Dr. Kozloff recently addressed cancer clinicians and specialists at a seminar entitled, "Meeting the Psychosocial Needs of Cancer Patients," at The Cancer Support Center in Mokena.

"More than 10 million Americans today are living with a current or past diagnosis of cancer," Dr. Kozloff explains. "And while advances in biomedical care have greatly extended life expectancy, providing high quality care for the psychological and social effects of cancer needs much greater attention."

To address this issue, in 2007 the American Institute of Medicine formed a committee to study the diverse psychosocial services needed by cancer patients and their families.

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"Treatment, the fear of a relapse, and the physical distress often associated with a cancer diagnosis can create new or exacerbate existing distress," he said.

On top of that, physical and psychological impairments can lead to significant social problems.

"Addressing the psychosocial health needs of the cancer patient must be an integral part of overall cancer care, and the committee has made recommendations to that end," Dr. Kozloff added.

According to their recommendations, all cancer care should facilitate effective communication between patients and care providers; identify each patient's psychosocial needs; design a care plan that links patients with needed psychosocial care; and systematically reevaluate and adjust the plan as necessary. And as the primary care provider, oncologists should lead the way in addressing these needs.

"In the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago, we at Ingalls are fortunate to collaborate with The Cancer Support Center in Homewood and Mokena to offer a full range of support, counseling and educational services to help cancer patients and their loved ones cope with the emotional, psychological and social effects of cancer," he said.

At both locations, cancer patients and their loved ones have access to a resource library; screenings and education; individual and family counseling and guidance; exercise and wellness programs; stress management; expressive arts; nutrition classes; social events; support groups; and grief support. Screenings and educational programs are made possible by the Richard K. Desser, M.D., Fund and are presented by experts from Ingalls and The Cancer Support Center.

"Only those who have been diagnosed with cancer and undergone its treatments can truly understand the physical and emotional impact that cancer has on every aspect of their life," Dr. Kozloff added, "but we as caregivers must make every effort to give them the support and the resources necessary to address all of their needs, physical, emotional and social."

For information about the free services provided by the Cancer Support Center, call 708.798.9171 in Homewood and 708.478.3529 in Mokena.

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