Measuring, treating a patient's distress is part of shift in attitudes
Years ago, people believed a cancer diagnosis meant death. They were so ashamed of the disease that its name was mentioned only in whispers.
She credits the attitudinal shift to:
* development of quantitative tools to measure levels of pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, delirium and health-related quality of life factors. With ways to measure outcomes, scientists could conduct clinical trials that focused on psychosocial issues.
* celebrities including Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller coming forward to share their cancer diagnoses.
* the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which in the late 1990s embarked on ways to improve psychosocial care for people with cancer. The group‘s research led to the use of the less-stigmatizing word "distress" in place of "psychiatric," "psychosocial" or "emotional."
Holland says appreciation for the role distress plays in a patient‘s healing is slowly catching on. The network‘s standard of care guidelines say distress should be recognized, monitored, documented in patient records and treated appropriately.
This article appears in the winter 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.