In addition, physicians can also help patients’ recovery by learning to assess for the development of depression. While speech and swallowing issues are usually objective findings, QOL issues can be just as debilitating for these patients, said Ms. Gold. Many of them do require emotional support, so finding and being willing to make referrals to psychosocial support services can improve quality of life for these patients.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2007
Psychosocial Supports for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer
Swallowing, facial disfigurement, and speech issues cause survivors of oral, head and neck cancer to become self conscious. They start to isolate [themselves], which is the opposite of what they need to do, says oncology social worker Jacqueline Zahora. Patients being treated at major cancer centers or at specialized rehabilitation centers have more access to multidisciplinary services. For patients and their caregivers in the community, the following organizations can be a vital lifeline for creating support networks:
SPOHNC (Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer), on the Web at www.spohnc.org , offers a free booklet, We Have Walked in Your Shoes: A Resource Guide to Living with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer, a recipe and resource guide (for a $17.50 donation), informational newsletters, access to online support groups, and many of other referral services.
Cancer Care, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, offers phone consultations with trained oncology social workers; in-person, telephone, and online support groups for survivors and caregivers, referrals to support services for help with travel to cancer centers; and limited financial grants for treatment-related issues (such as transportation and childcare costs). Cancer Care is on the Web at www.cancercare.org .
The Milton J. Dance Head and Neck Rehabilitation Center provides support services to patients in the Baltimore area, and offers an email forum for asking questions, links and information via its Web site: www.gbmc.org/mjdancerehab .
The International Association of Laryngectomees provides support, information, and programs, as well as a locator service for finding a local support group, through its Web site: www.larynxlink.com .
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