Cancer affects the whole person, and feeling stressed or anxious while coping with cancer is common. Individual counseling with a professional oncology social worker can provide emotional and practical support for those who affected by cancer. Oncology social workers are experts in helping people find ways to cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis, providing guidance and support to people living with cancer and to their loved ones.

The Benefits of Individual Counseling for People Living With Cancer

Seeking professional counseling is good coping behavior when you are overwhelmed or facing an enormous adjustment like a cancer diagnosis. Face-to-face or telephone counseling provides a safe space to share and examine situations that you may face.

Learn new ways to cope with cancer. “You have cancer.” Hearing these words from a doctor can be devastating and the period immediately following your diagnosis can often be chaotic. However, take heart. Many people who receive a cancer diagnosis come to learn that there are effective treatment options. Managing doctor’s visits, organizing your finances and understanding treatment options can be overwhelming. Individual counseling can help you prepare for what’s ahead and identify ways you are already coping.

Manage financial challenges. Cancer is an expensive illness and can magnify any financial burdens you are already facing. Even with health insurance, most people will have out-of-pocket costs for their medical care. Oncology social workers can help you research your financial assistance options that are available and that best fit your needs. This can include co-payments for medications, transportation assistance and help with living expenses such as rent /mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance and food.

Talk to your loved ones about cancer. Cancer is a difficult subject to talk about. You may feel that the diagnosis is yours alone to cope with, and perhaps feel the need to isolate yourself from others. Recognize that confronting a cancer diagnosis may bring you and your loved ones closer together. Keeping the lines of communication open with the people in your life can allow you to feel more connected to a network of support. The bottom line is that even in the midst of reacting to cancer, you have to pay attention, not to how you “should” be reacting or feeling, but to what really feels right to you.

For parents coping with a diagnosis, some may try to avoid the topic in fear that they will upset their children. What to say about cancer, how to say it, and how much information to share with a child are common concerns. Counseling can help you understand how you are reacting to cancer, how you feel, what you are doing – or not doing, what your expectations are and how you function in stress.

Improve communication with your health care team. The relationship you have with your health care team can make a big difference in how you cope with these challenges. The more you feel that you can openly discuss any matters of concern to you, the better you are likely to feel about your care over the long term.

Find reliable information. One of the biggest challenges for people with cancer is sorting through different treatment options. There is a vast amount of information available on the internet, some of it unreliable. Oncology social workers can help you find trustworthy materials.

Understand your rights as a patient and your insurance. It’s important to have the contact information of the individual you should call in your doctor’s office or hospital when your insurance company has a question. There are also rights you should know about if you want to continue working during your cancer treatment like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Edited by David Horne, MSW, LMSW

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Last updated April 19, 2017

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

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