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 Dealing with the distress of cancer patients

“Distress is a complicated emotional reaction that patients often experience when they are dealing with cancer. It can range from mild feelings of worry to significant depression and anxiety,” explains Dr. Janice Howes, a psychologist and Psychosocial Oncology Clinical Leader with Cancer Care Nova Scotia (CCNS).

Kelly Fenn, Project Manager, Screening for Distress and Marianne Arab, Manager, Supportive Care

As many as 35%- 45% of all cancer patients suffer significant distress at some point during treatment.  Identifying distress earlier helps patients cope better and improves their quality of life, while living with cancer. “Even though many cancer patients experience significant distress, only about 10%-15% are referred for help,” notes Dr. Howes. “It’s under-identified and under-addressed in the system.” 


For this reason, CCNS is working with national and provincial partners to change this and provide better care. We know that the level of distress a patient is experiencing is just as important to their care as monitoring blood pressure, temperature and other vital signs. 

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