Ask The Cancer Experts: Dr. Madeline Li

Here's your chance to Ask the Cancer Experts, of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, a question. Dr. Madeline Li tackles the topic of diagnosis anxiety and how Princess Margaret staff is trained to help patients through it. #conquercancer
 
The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is one of the Top 5 Cancer Research Centers in the world.
 
This week our question came from Facebook. Guiliana: How do you prepare your team or train your staff to deal with a person’s anxiety around their diagnosis?
 
We went to Dr. Madeline Li, Psychiatrist in the Department of Supportive Care at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, to tell us more about patient anxiety and how staff is equipped to deal with emotional distress. 
 
Is patient anxiety common?
Dr. Li: We know that anxiety is probably one of the most common symptoms that cancer patients experience.
 
What are some other symptoms patients experience?
Dr. Li: Sadness  or depression, worry about practical things like how you’re going to get to the hospital, how you’re going to pay for your medication, worry about physical suffering, along with anxiety are part of the normal reaction to cancer. All together, we call that emotional distress.
 
What is done to manage emotional distress?
Dr. Li: At Princess Margaret, we have developed a tool called the Distress Assessment and Response Tool, or DART.
 
How does DART work?
Dr. Li: Patients complete a distress screening survey on computers in the waiting room, it prints out a report that then we provide training to the oncology staff in terms of how to look at that report and how to respond to the distress that’s identified in the report.
 
Are there other components of DART?
Dr. Li: DART stands for Distress Assessment and Response Tool because the response component is built right into the name of the program. Helping staff learning how to manage anxiety and distress in the clinics involves using the Cancer Care Ontario Symptom Management Guidelines around what to do for people at different levels of distress.
 
However, some doctors may require further assistance. Hey, they’re human too
Dr. Li: We’ve also developed a website for staff that has communication tips on how to provide supportive communication around distress.
 
Are these methods effective?
Dr. Li: So we put DART into all of the Oncology Clinics at Princess Margaret since 2009, and since then we have had our first ever increase in patient satisfaction with emotional support from their oncology teams.
 
For more information, visit thepmcf.ca.