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New Guidelines Help Cancer Patients Deal with Illness

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – There are a new guidelines to help cancer patients deal with distress. Roswell Park Cancer Institute played a role in the creation of these national guidelines.

The new Distress Treatment Guidelines now offer cancer patients and families assistance in sorting through the anguish of being diagnosed with cancer. Roswell Park participated in the national development of new guidelines -- a collaboration headed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Michael Zevon is chairman of Psycho-Social Oncology at Roswell Park. He says the guidelines, at the least, help patients and families realize their emotional response to cancer is normal.

"That first flush of response, once diagnosis is given, is made up of many things -- fears about upcoming treatment, survival, impact on their family and functioning in their different roles in their lives," Zevon said.

Zevon says cancer care is complex, and often it does not offer high predictability. He says when patients are diagnosed, they enter a different realm of medicine. That is why the new guideline pamphlets include two self-tests.

"One is the distress thermometer, which is a brief screening tool, that will hopefully be integrated into cancer care settings in order to help us rapidly identify patients who need additional help," Zevon said. "The other is a more extensive self test to help individuals identify certain patterns in their own emotional response that might need some attention and assistance."

The guidelines are part of other programs to help educate patients and families about cancer. The distress guideline booklets are available through Roswell Park.