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Study Shows Lack of Psychological Care For Cancer Patients

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According to a recent study conducted in Canada, only a minority of patients with advanced forms of cancer are being referred by their cancer doctor for specialized psychological care, even when they are clearly distressed.

In a comprehensive cancer treatment center 326 patients were treated for different types of advanced forms of cancer. Out of the 326 patients only one third were referred for psychosocial care from a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist according to reports by Dr. Gary Rodin and his colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Further, more than half of those with clinically significant levels of depression were not referred for psychosocial care of any kind throughout the course of their disease, said Rodin.

These findings are of concern because they demonstrate that the majority of cancer patients with advanced disease and clinically significant levels of depression may not be referred for psychosocial care, despite mounting evidence for its benefit, said Rodin, who is chief of the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.

The study also showed that unmarried patients who were living alone were more likely to be referred for psychosocial care.

There also seems to be a clear age bias when it comes to referring patients for this type of care. All patients under the age of 40 were referred, but only 22% of patients 70 years and older were referred for psychological care.