According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), distress is common to almost every patient because of multiple stressors associated with various stages of cancer and oncological treatment (Psychosocial Distress, 2012).
Interestingly enough, only a few distressed patients receive the support needed to discuss cancer related stress (Kadan-Lottick, Vanderwerker, Block, Zhang, & Prigerson, 2005).
For a moment let us consider health disparities. What precisely is the definition of health disparities?
NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD, 2012) Website has some of them listed. I give a short excerpt here:
In general, health disparities can be defined as significant differences between one population and another. The Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act of 2000, which authorizes various HHS programs describes these disparities as differences in “The overall rate of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality or survival rates.”
Health disparities affect many populations including racial and ethnic minorities, residents of rural areas, women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities (CRCHD, 2012).
Consider this map of Michigan (my state of residence). The dark red colors show higher cancer mortality rates per capita, than the lighter shaded reds/whites. You can go to the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Mortality Maps Site (National Cancer Institute, n.d.) to generate a map based on your place of residence.
The compounding implications of not addressing the neglect mentioned by Kadan-Lottick et al. (2005) and inability to get access to services because of a cancer patient’s geographic area presents particular problems. Neglected distress and cancer related stress in cancer patients can lead to amplified pain, increased desire for hastened death, increased disability, impaired ability to take part in the end of life planning, and diminished psychosocial functioning of caregivers (Kadan-Lottick et al., 2005).
Thus, it is imperative that oncological providers address the utilization of services that address cancer relates stress, potentially improving clinical outcomes (Kadan-Lottick et al., 2005).
This goes hand in hand with research by Wise, Han, Shaw, McTavish, & Gustafson, (2008) who end “As patients increasingly use the web for cancer information, clinicians should offer lists of high quality resources that give both narrative and didactic instruction” (p. 1).
An alternative medicine cancer support group cannot possibly address all health disparities. The “Digital Divide” is hampering many American’s to go online for basic cancer information (Cancer Control and Population Sciences, 2011).
Nonetheless, alternative medicine cancer support groups facilitated online are a start to ease some health disparities and remove some hurdles of access to care, such as eliminating the geographic restriction. Prospective participants can even take part in an alternative medicine cancer support group online via latest versions of iPhones, iPads or Androids.
To reiterate: An alternative medicine cancer support group addresses:
- The Narrative Domain: a participant interacts with other participants through listening and sharing of personal experiences
- The Didactic Domain: each group session includes a mini review of the evidence behind a particular alternative medicine modality in the oncological setting
- The Experiential Domain: each group session entails the learning of an alternative medicine skill. Participants learn right away how to add the alternative medicine skills they learned into their daily routine.
If cancer side railed your life; either as patient, loved one/caretaker of a cancer patient, or if you are a practitioner providing services to cancer patients and would like to take part in an upcoming alternative medicine cancer support group that is facilitated online, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.
The next Alternative Medicine Cancer Support Group that is facilitated online is forming now. Only limited spaces available.
Thank you for visiting The Alternative Medicine Blog.
Werner Absenger, M.Sc.
Cancer Control and Population Sciences (2011). Digital divide resources. Retrieved from http://dccps.nci.nih.gov/cancer_resources-digdivide.html
Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). (2012, January 26). Health Disparities Defined. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://crchd.cancer.gov/about/defined.html
Kadan-Lottick, N. S., Vanderwerker, L. C., Block, S. D., Zhang, B., & Prigerson, H. G. (2005). Psychiatric disorders and mental health service use in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer, 104(12), 2872–2881. doi:10.1002/cncr.21532
National Cancer Institute (NCI). (n.d.). Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs. Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://ratecalc.cancer.gov/
Psychosocial Distress. (2012, February 17). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/adjustment/HealthProfessional/page3#Section_91
Wise, M., Han, J. Y., Shaw, B., McTavish, F., & Gustafson, D. H. (2008). Effects of using online narrative and didactic information on healthcare participation for breast cancer patients. Patient Educ Couns., 70(3), 348–356.