Living with cancer blog

Oncology social workers offer resources and support

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. November 29, 2011

This week's blog post will introduce you to Patrice F. Al-Shatti, L.M.S.W., an oncology social worker at Mayo Clinic.

Patrice works with individuals going through radiation oncology treatment. She visits with them and their family members, working together to identify goals and strategies for support and resources.

She helps discover sources of financial support, tap into benefits, and identify changes in lifestyle that might reduce stress and accommodate current circumstances. She serves as an advocate for the individual's needs, focusing the attention on the specific concern.

When counseling is the identified need, she might share communication strategies to keep a marriage healthy under the intense pressures of illness or offer ways for parents to talk to children so that they're informed, included, yet guided toward normalcy.

She also can help address other important quality of life issues, such as depression, sleep, fatigue and other treatment-related effects.

A diagnosis of cancer can make you feel as if your entire life has been turned upside down. As you and your family struggle to deal with all of the aspects of this major change in your life, get in touch with an oncology social worker.

A surprising fact is that in most cases the services are free of charge. In healthcare settings, social workers are members of the multidisciplinary team. Ask your physician if a social worker is available to you.

If your treatment center does not offer the service, check to see if your community has a Gilda's Club, a Wellness Community — known as the Cancer Support Community in some areas — or call your American Cancer Society (800-227-2345) for resources and support.

You can also explore the website of the Association of Oncology Social Workers to find a provider and learn more about this role. The cancer journey is a challenging road and it's our great desire to walk it with you. Please share any thoughts or experiences with Patrice through this blog discussion.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

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Nov. 29, 2011