Ekata admittedly had low expectations about what she might gain from psychosocial support. “I thought I would have two or three sessions, and that would be it,” she says. Ekata found speaking with her social worker to be so beneficial, however, she continued coming to CancerCare for monthly counseling sessions.
“When I come to CancerCare,” Ekata says, “that is my safe place to talk about anything. My social worker has been an amazing validation for me. It’s hard to figure out your emotions sometimes, but she makes me realize that it’s okay to feel the way I feel.”

Along with receiving individual counseling, many patients and caregivers benefit from participating in a support group. Organizations such as CancerCare (www.cancercare.org) offer free support groups for patients and caregivers. CancerCare also refers patients and loved ones to resources in their community that can provide additional emotional and practical support.

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The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and Cancer.Net (www.cancer.net) provide excellent, patient-friendly information on a wide variety of cancer-related topics, including doctor/patient communication. The American Cancer Society staff can also direct callers to practical support services such as its Road to Recovery transportation assistance program.

Many patients and caregivers report feeling particularly stressed regarding financial and insurance concerns. Many local and national organizations offer direct financial assistance for treatment-related expenses such as lodging, transportation, child care, and over-the-counter medications. The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition Web site, www.cancerfac.org, includes a searchable database of regional and national organizations that offer financial help. Other organizations such as the CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation (www.cancercarecopay.org) help eligible people afford copayments for chemotherapy and targeted treatment drugs.

People coping with a cancer diagnosis face what can feel like insurmountable challenges. Meeting patients’ and caregivers’ psychosocial needs will not only help them better manage difficult feelings; it will also yield better adherence and treatment outcomes. ONA

Helen Miller is CEO of CancerCare.