Primary Institution Social Worker

Most health care facilities are staffed with social workers who are specially trained in the field of oncology. Their training includes an understanding of cancer and its impact on the patient and the patient's family. Many social workers are skilled at integrating patients into programs for medical financial assistance. They may also locate other resources, such as transportation or housing assistance. Independent organizations such as Cancer Care or Can-dlelighters can also provide social worker assistance.

*Editor's note: While second opinions are very valuable, the patient should be careful to avoid embarking on a series of undirected and unfocused multiple opinions, which inevitably will lead to confusion.

Social workers may also be skilled in psychosocial evaluations and in assessing the impact of cancer therapy upon the day-to-day activities of patients and their families. If needed, they can provide individual support or group counseling, or they can refer patients if more psychosocial expertise is required. Many large institutions, in addition to social workers, have specially trained health care providers, such as advanced-practice nurses, trained to provide psychosocial assistance and counsel. If the stress of cancer is affecting a patient's well-being, resources such as these must be sought.

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