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Semin Oncol. 2005 Apr;32(2):211-8.

Psychosocial oncology: supportive care for the cancer patient.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Increasing attention is being paid to the emotional and psychosocial needs of cancer patients. As a result of huge advances in early detection and in treatment modalities, there now are millions of cancer survivors in the United States. There has been a realization that cancer survivors have distinct psychosocial needs. As cancer survivors live longer, reduction of psychological distress has been recognized as being an important part of having an improved quality of life. There have been numerous changes in the field of psychosocial oncology since it first began 25 years ago. Guidelines now exist for the definition of distress and decision trees are available for making the appropriate referrals. Advances in pharmacologic treatment for depression and anxiety have made it possible to decrease distress and increase coping in cancer patients undergoing treatment as well as in cancer survivors. Numerous individual and group therapies have demonstrated effectiveness in improving mood and quality of life in cancer patients and those at high risk for developing cancer. Due to the forthright efforts of cancer patients, there are now many organizations and list serves (e-mailing lists) that cancer survivors can turn to for help before, during, and after cancer treatment. Finally, with the rapid expansion of the internet not only are there websites available as resources, but also the creation of interactive online support is becoming a reality. One of the most important issues in providing supportive care to cancer patients in the future is to meet the individual needs of patients and provide the type of psychological therapy that will work best for them.

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