Risk Management & Treatment

Emotional health

Most people diagnosed with cancer or at high risk for cancer have some distress. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that healthcare providers ask their patients about level of distress and refer patients experiencing distress to mental health professionals. Despite these guidelines, many patients do not receive the mental health care they need. It is important that you tell your doctor if you are experiencing distress, and ask about your options for referral to a mental health care provider.

People experiencing distress may benefit from the following services:

  • referral to a mental health care provider
  • referral to a financial navigator
  • antianxiety or antidepressent medications
  • an exercise program
  • pain management
  • complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation, massage
  • referral to spiritual or chaplaincy care 
  • referral to palliative care

Many cancer centers and oncology practices have experts to help patients manage distress. If you are experiencing distress, notify your doctor and ask for a referral to supportive services.

Support for severe distress

If you are experiencing severe distress and cannot wait for a referral to a mental health care professional, please call the experts at the National Suicide Prevention Helpline. 

  • The National Suicide Prevention Helpline is a network of crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support for people in suicidal crisis or extreme distress. 1-800-273-8255.    

Finding professional support related to cancer distress

Additional resources are available to help you find experts and services in your area. 

  • Cancercare is a nonprofit organization that provides support through their trained oncology social workers, or call 800-813-HOPE.
  • Livestrong has helpful information and tips for finding mental health care professionals.

It's important to alert you health care provider if you are experiencing emotional distress. Peer support does not replace the care provided by a mental health professional. However, some people find support from a peer who shares their mutation, diagnosis or experience helpful. The following FORCE programs offer peer support. 

Last updated September 28, 2020