The rights of cancer patients

Cancer patients and their families have the right to take advantage of a series of benefits and support tools, both during and after therapy.

In addition to the rights of cancer patients in the fields of health care, welfare, employment, and social security, cancer patients and their family members are also entitled to receive the nutritional and psychological support necessary to deal with the disease and the relative therapies.

The right to nutritional support

The guidelines developed by the Italian Federation of Voluntary Oncology Associations (FAVO), the Italian Medical Oncology Association (AIOM), and the Italian Nutrition and Metabolism Society (SINPE) offers cancer patients and their families support for ensuring proper nutrition and a healthy diet, both during and after therapy.

The Charter of Cancer Patient Rights

    1. The right to correct information and nutrition counselling
    2. The right to nutrition status screening and assessment
    3. The right to nutritional prescriptions
    4. The right to access to oral nutritional supplementation
    5. The right to receive prompt and appropriate artificial nutrition
    6. The right to receive safe and appropriate artificial nutrition at home
    7. The right to nutritional support monitoring
    8. The right to the treatment of therapy-related weight gain
    9. The right to psychological support
    10.  The right to participate in controlled clinical trials on clinical nutrition

The right to psychological support
Studies have shown that, among cancer patients:

  • 30% suffer from significant anxiety
  • 20-35% suffer from depression
  • 75% suffer from psychological distress, or other negative emotional experiences

These moods can affect the patient’s ability to fight the disease, and can also have a negative impact on the therapies’ effectiveness.

The shock that patients face upon learning of the status of the disease causes a series of symptoms, such as:

  • Uncertainty
  • Frustration and feelings of guilt
  • Physical transformations
  • Grief
  • Lifestyle modification
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Feelings of injustice and envy
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Depression

Due to these psychological implications, the international guidelines and the Italian Medical Oncology Association (AIOM) guidelines recommend a series of psychological support measures for patients and their families, in order to manage and mitigate the psychological impacts of the disease and the relative treatments.

Psycho-oncologists are tasked with evaluating not only the disease and the patient’s general condition, but also their socio/family life, work situation, and cultural and economic context, in order to determine the pathway that will allow them to best handle the psychological repercussions of the disease and the subsequent therapies.