Oncology social workers help patients with cancer

September 11, 2013 Tricia Matteson, MSW, LSWAIC

“What happens if my insurance won’t pay for all of this treatment?”
“How do I tell my young daughter about my cancer?”
“My spouse is really struggling, but I don’t know how to help him.” 
“How will I get to radiation every day if I can’t drive?”
“My friends and family call a lot, but I don’t feel like talking to them”
“I’m scared.”   “I’m angry”   “I’m sad”    “I’m confused”
“What’s a power of attorney…and do I need one?”
“Where can I find out about a support group? ”
“I wish I knew where to turn.”

If you are faced with a diagnosis of cancer, you may be asking similar questions and wondering where to turn for answers. A good place to start is with an oncology social worker. Oncology social workers assist with the non-medical issues that often arise when someone is diagnosed with cancer. We have master’s degrees in social work, and are specially trained to provide counseling and assistance with services that can reduce stress for you and your family through all phases of your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Social work services are available at the Swedish Cancer Institute at our First Hill, Edmonds, and Issaquah campuses, and are provided at no cost to our patients.

We can help you:

  • Improve communication with your healthcare team, partner, family members, and friends
  • Sort through financial, insurance, and legal concerns
  • Understand and manage depression, anxiety, sadness, fear and grief
  • Cope adaptively to your diagnosis and treatment with stress reduction and relaxation techniques
  • Find support groups and educational classes
  • Access integrated care services such as nutrition, naturopathy, massage, and art therapy
  • Connect with community agencies and services
  • Understand advance directives
  • Learn about living life as a survivor

It is common to wonder what it is it like to meet with a social worker, and patients often worry that it will take a lot of time or that they will feel awkward discussing their feelings. I usually meet with patients on a day they are already in the clinic seeing their doctor or having treatment, so they avoid having to make a special trip. We’ll talk about your diagnosis, but most importantly, we will talk about YOU: What is working well and what do you find most challenging? What worries you the most? Who or what provides comfort and support?

Then I’ll describe resources that are available at Swedish and in the community, and will work together to find solutions for things that are causing concern or distress. Discussing commonly experienced issues and identifying available resources can actually help alleviate anxiety, as patients and family members realize they aren’t alone and aren’t the only ones feeling the way they do.

To get connected with an oncology social worker at Swedish, please call:

  • First Hill:  206-386-3228
  • Edmonds:  425-673-8328
  • Issaquah:  425-313-4224

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