ALBERTA PIONEERS A GLOBAL STANDARD OF CARE THAT’S IMPROVING OVERALL WELL-BEING
Navigating through a cancer diagnosis can be a daunting and stressful task, two things that Meredith Hodges knows all too well
But thanks the launch of a new program developed at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Meredith and other cancer patients are experiencing less distress as a result of their illness and treatment.
Two years ago, you helped the Alberta Cancer Foundation bring this program, Screening for Distress, to Alberta cancer patients and since then, more than 1,000 patients were assessed as part of a recent evaluation of the program.
Patients are asked to complete a brief screening for distress questionnaire at various points throughout their cancer treatment. Responses are then gathered and front-line staff work with individuals who are experiencing severe distress and develop an action plan to mitigate or eliminate the cause(s) of distress.
Following her breast cancer diagnosis, Meredith completed the Screening for Distress questionnaire, and responses indicated she becoming increasing concerned her illness was damaging her marriage.
“The closeness my husband and I shared for so long was not there anymore and I didn’t know how to approach my husband,” recalls Meredith.
Screening for Distress helps front-line staff to identify issues that are negatively affecting cancer patients throughout various points of their journey, so solutions can be developed to improve their overall well-being.
"The screening talk allowed me to open up about the distress I was feeling. The nurse I spoke with knew how to help and she recommended a program that was right for me and my situation. It helped me understand my own situation and brought me closer to my husband, and he to me. We were ready to face the world again as just the two of us, in a much closer way."
- Meredith Hodges
Results from the two-year evaluation showed Screening for Distress reduced the number of cancer patients who worried about their appearance by 72 per cent, and reduced the number of cancer patients who reported feeling a burden to others by 60 per cent. More than half of all patients reported less frustration and anger after participating in the program.
"While the physical symptoms of cancer are routinely addressed with medical treatment, the psychosocial and practical impact of the disease can go unattended,” says Linda Watson, Lead of Person-Centred Care Integration for Alberta Health Services. “Screening for Distress allows the patient to identify issues so meaningful support can be provided across the entire cancer journey
Distress is classified as an unpleasant emotional experience ranging from vulnerability and sadness, to disabling problems, such as anxiety and depression. It can also include eating difficulties, fatigue, financial worries or family concerns.
Unaddressed and untreated, distress can interfere with a patient’s ability to cope effectively with cancer, its physical and psychosocial symptoms, and its treatment.
Screening for Distress was conceived in the late 1990s at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre by a team led by Dr. Barry Bultz, Clinical Lead of Psychosocial Oncology, Supportive Care and Patient Experience.
Today, distress is now endorsed by more than 75 international organizations and societies, including the Union for International Cancer Control, as the “sixth vital sign” in cancer care, following temperature, pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate and pain.
Thank you for making investments that matter. You are making life for Alberta cancer patients like Meredith, better.