Cancer patients live constantly with, "Will it come back?"

Cancer patients live constantly with, "Will it come back?"

The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation recently awarded a grant to Cancer Support Community Columbus to screen survivors for serious psychological distress and provide support to those at risk.

The grant is for $50,000, according to Bev Soult, president and CEO of Cancer Support Community, which is based on the Northwest Side.

The money supports part of an ongoing effort by Cancer Support Community outlets throughout the country to gain greater recognition for the importance of the mental as well as physical aspects of treating cancer patients, according to Soult.

"Research has proven it as important as cancer treatment itself," she said. "Combined, you've got a powerful tool."

In making the announcement, she said perhaps as many as 2,500 cancer survivors in Franklin County "are living with serious psychological distress."

And yet, Soult said in an interview, only about 33 percent of these people ever speak with a mental health professional.

"Everybody deserves quality of life and to be able to be supported," she said.

"This grant enables us to reach patients that might not be able to afford counseling."

"At Anthem, we believe that the integration of clinical care and behavioral health is essential," Dr. Elizabeth Bonanno, behavioral health medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio, said in a prepared statement.

"Supporting organizations like the Cancer Support Community helps everyone in our community live healthier lives."

The success of the program funded by the grant will be measured by licensed social worker Angie Santangelo using the patented CancerSupportSource screening tool, according to the announcement.

The tool allows Santangelo to gauge where program participants rate on an emotional scale and helps her create an individualized action plan for each participant.

At three months, participants will be invited to retake the distress screening to gauge their progress after participating in the programs provided by Cancer Support Community.

The grant will help in developing what Soult referred to as a "patient-centered care plan" for those suffering serious distress, whether it's in support groups or individual counseling.

Cancer Support Community is the only entity in central Ohio that provides distress screenings to cancer survivors who are no longer being treated at a large, accredited cancer treatment center, according to the announcement.

The organization is also rolling out a screening tool and outreach program designed especially for caregivers.