Updated Cancer Survival Toolbox Issued

— Lyn Stoesen, News Staff


New content has been added to the Cancer Survival Toolbox, a free audio resource program for people diagnosed with cancer. NASW has partnered with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the Oncology Nursing Society and the Association of Oncology Social Work to develop the toolbox.

New audio programs on "First Steps for the Newly Diagnosed" and "Dying Well — The Final Stages of Survivorship" are now part of the 12-program toolbox.

The "First Steps" program "offers practical guidelines designed to help you take those first steps toward successfully meeting the challenges that a cancer diagnosis can impose." It gives information to help people select members of their cancer care team, gather information, develop a treatment plan, tell people about the diagnosis and other steps.

The "Dying Well" program is "an informative, supportive and reassuring program designed to teach you more about your choices and resources and what to expect during this last stage of survival." It offers preparation for communicating with people, managing hopes and expectations, making decisions about symptom management, making informed decisions, managing grief and other steps.

"These materials provide valuable information for people with cancer and their families," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "The new programs have made the toolbox a more comprehensive resource."

The other programs in the toolbox address: communicating; finding information; making decisions; solving problems; negotiating; standing up for your rights; topics for older persons; finding ways to pay for care; caring for the caregiver; and living beyond cancer.

The toolbox is available as a set of CDs, as online downloads or through the iTunes Store. Transcripts of the programs are also available.

The CD kit includes a booklet with summaries of each program, Internet resources, an overview of laws pertaining to health insurance, a guide to clinical trials, suggested reading materials and contact information for advocacy organizations and other sources of information. It also includes a "distress management thermometer" to help people assess their emotional states as well as physical problems and a glossary of terms.

NASW and NCCS also developed a series of talking points for social workers to educate them about the toolbox and ways it can help their clients.

The talking points note:

  • The Cancer Survival Toolbox content is based on theoretically and scientifically grounded evidence. The toolbox format and delivery style reflect current knowledge of adult patient education.
  • Potential issues can become major challenges when they are not dealt with in timely ways. The toolbox helps social workers anticipate issues common to people dealing with cancer.
  • The toolbox case studies are culturally sensitive and varied, allowing survivors to identify more closely with scenarios, concerns and potential resolutions to the most common challenges facing today's survivors. The scenarios are taken from the toolbox development team members' varied experiences and reflect culturally diverse patients', survivors' and caregivers' most common needs.
  • The toolbox has been validated for use in culturally, socioeconomically, geographically and cognitively diverse populations. Development strategies for the toolbox included review by various grassroots survivor-advocacy groups and individuals with expertise.
  • The toolbox lets individuals affected by cancer learn at their own speed and in their choice of settings.
  • When the toolbox is incorporated into social work practice, it saves time and helps ensure that clients get important, basic information. After the toolbox gives clients a basic level of information, more client-centered communication and specific interventions can be devised.
  • The toolbox is continually reviewed for timeliness, accuracy and relevance and is updated on a regular basis. The first version of the toolbox was released in 1998. Additional programs were added in 2000 and 2004. The latest version was finalized in 2007 and reflects current survivorship issues, research and findings.

In addition to Clark, other NASW representatives who contributed to the toolbox were Yvette Colon, a former NASW board member and an expert on palliative and end-of-life care, Special Assistant to the Executive Director Rebecca Myers and Senior Policy Associate Karyn Walsh. Carol Marcusen and Katherine Walsh, representing the Association of Oncology Social Work, are also NASW members.

Clark helped develop the toolbox in her former position as president of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.