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.
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.
- Register for the FORCE Message Boards to connect with others who share your situation.
- FORCE's Peer Navigation Program will match you with a volunteer who shares your mutation and situation and provide you with a free resource guide.
- Contact the FORCE impact leaders in your area to link to local support groups and other resources.
- Attend a virtual support meeting in your area.
- Read the stories from members of our community.
- NCT03611309: Perioperative Palliative Care Surrounding Cancer Surgery for Patients & Their Family Members (PERIOP-PC). The study goal is to compare surgeon-palliative care team co-management, versus surgeon alone management, of patients and family members preparing for major upper gastrointestinal cancer surgery.
- NCT03360695: Bridge: Proactive Psychiatry Consultation and Case Management for Patients With Cancer who have Serious Mental Illness. It is challenging to cope with cancer. The investigators want to understand if it is helpful for patients with serious mental illness (SMI) to be connected to a psychiatrist and case manager when cancer is diagnosed.
- NCT03060096: Stepped-Care Telehealth for Distress in Rural Cancer Survivors (Telehealth). Mental health issues in post-treatment adult cancer survivors may represent a cancer health disparity for rural survivors. The purpose of this study is to test an approach tailored to symptom severity and improving outcomes (sleep disturbance, fatigue, fear of recurrence, quality of life) in rural, post-treatment survivors.
- NCT01828775: Palliative Care Intervention in Improving Quality of Life, Psychological Distress, and Communication in Patients With Solid Tumors Receiving Treatment. This clinical trial studies palliative care intervention in improving quality of life, psychological distress, and communication in patients with solid tumors receiving treatment on phase I trials.