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Cancer Patients in Distress Find A Helpful Coping Tool at Fox Chase Cancer Center

NCCN and ACS Develop Distress Treatment Guidelines for Patients

PHILADELPHIA (January 11, 2005) -- Almost one third of cancer patients experience severe distress, a mix of anxiety and depressive symptoms that can interfere with their ability to cope with the disease. Yet only a few patients seek outpatient psychological help. Distress Treatment Guidelines for Patients are a definitive and first-of-its-kind resource designed to enhance a patient's quality of life, support patient-doctor communications and increase successful cancer therapies by improving a patients' ability to stick with their treatment plan. This free 32-page booklet is now available through your physician or by contacting the American Cancer Society (ACS) via their website ( or dialing 1-800-ACS-2345.

Leading cancer experts from the member institutions of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) first developed the guidelines for physician use. Fox Chase Cancer Center is a founding member of the NCCN. The ACS has translated the guidelines into easy-to-understand language for patients. Helpful tools within include a medical terms glossary and a comprehensive list of available Internet resources.

"At first, a cancer diagnosis can be devastating," said panel member Michael Levy, MD PhD, vice chairman of medical oncology at Fox Chase. "The treatment regiments and symptoms can be taxing on the emotional and physical well-being of the patient, their family members or caregivers. Distress Treatment Guidelines acts as a faithful consultant and is a proactive step to conquering the disease."

According to Levy, feelings of distress range from powerlessness, depression, and anxiety. Poor concentration, feelings of being overwhelmed, and trouble sleeping or eating may represent severe distress. Distress Treatment Guidelines of Patients also includes the do's and don'ts for coping with distress and the distress thermometer, which assesses the extent of distress and the specific problems that are contributing to it.

"Whether it is the nurse, social worker or myself, I encourage the patient to tell us everything they are feeling," continued Levy. "The more we know, they better we can help." Levy notes that there is so much to cover during office visits that patients often feel they would be a nuisance to bring up distress or any emotional feelings they have. "Patients tend to focus on questions pertaining to their treatment and symptoms and should recognize that relieving their distress is a major part of their successful treatment plan."

The most up-to-date-version of the guidelines is also available at or 1-888-909-NCCN.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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