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Distress as the Sixth Vital Sign: An Emerging International Symbol for Improving Psychosocial Care 

Distress as the Sixth Vital Sign: An Emerging International Symbol for Improving Psychosocial Care
Chapter:
Distress as the Sixth Vital Sign: An Emerging International Symbol for Improving Psychosocial Care
Source:
Psycho-Oncology (3 ed.)
Author(s):

Barry D. Bultz

, Matthew J. Loscalzo

, and Jimmie C. Holland

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199363315.003.0101

Oncologists claim to be committed to biopsychosocial care. However, a palpable tension exists between how cancer care can address the psychosocial needs of the patient while at the same time retaining a primary focus on cure, in the face of limited resources. With biomedical advances, many cancers are now being better controlled to the point where cancer is evolving from an acute illness to a chronic condition. This shift is driving the creation of a new paradigm for healthcare. Increasingly, care is about the patient and the patient’s experience as she lives with her cancer (physically, psychosocially, and practically). Oncology practice, particularly the field of psycho-oncology, must mature to the point where healthcare systems integrate psychosocial oncology as an essential part of the “medical team,” and the monitoring of vital signs must go beyond the standard biomedical vital signs to include distress as the sixth vital sign.

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