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MASCC Psychosocial Study Group


Chair: Lidia Schapira, MD - USA
Vice-Chair: Bogda Koczwara, BMBS, FRACP, MBioethics, FAICD, Australia

For more information or to contact the Study Group Leaders, please send an email to [email protected].

Study Group History, Purpose and Objectives

The Psychosocial Oncology Study group was established at the 14th Annual MASCC Symposium in Boston in response to the huge interest from MASCC members in the psychosocial care of cancer patients. The Study Group planned its first working meeting at the 15th Annual Symposium in Berlin in 2003.

As cancer patients and survivors increase in number worldwide, patients’ psychosocial concerns and needs become increasingly relevant during the entire cancer trajectory. A 2007 report from the Institute of Medicine, Cancer for the Whole Patent: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs, makes it clear that such needs must be recognized, studied, and addressed from the time of diagnosis to the end of life or to remission and survivorship. 

In 2010, the Psychosocial Study Group published a position paper on behalf of MASCC titled Psychosocial Care for Patients and their Families Is Integral to Supportive Care in Cancer: MASCC Position Statement. Support Care Cancer. 2010; 18:255-63. The aim of the Study Group is to make the psychosocial dimension of care, including appropriate assessment and interventions, an integral part of routine cancer care for all patients.

Study Group objectives:

  • To identify and involve members with a special interest in psychosocial oncology
  • To support MASCC in meeting members’ needs with respect to psychosocial oncology issues
  • To contribute to discussions of program content and format for annual meeting
  • To ensure continued adequate and high-quality psychosocial oncology content
  • To solicit opinions from MASCC members with a special interest in psychosocial oncology regarding study group aims, research, and projects.

New Psychosocial Subgroup on Cross-Cultural Issues

The Psychosocial Study Group announces the formation of a new Subgroup, which will focus on cross-cultural issues in cancer supportive care. Its inception was sparked by conversations between group members Sandra Michiels and Patrick Crombez, who will head this new initiative.

Culture affects all aspects of the cancer experience. The ways in which patients experience cancer and its treatment are filtered through the lens of culture, as well as those of personality and personal history. Excellent supportive care involves awareness of the ways in which culture, immigration, and ethnicity affect therapeutic transactions. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes about cultural differences can lead to more effective clinical interactions, improve therapeutic outcomes, decrease disparities in cancer care, and improve quality of life for both patients and their families.

The new Cross-Cultural Subgroup will promote cultural competence through the exploration of contexts, experiences, and conceptual cross-cultural issues in cancer care. The Subgroup plans to design interventions that promote cultural competence among cancer care professionals and will undertake qualitative research on cross-cultural issues. It will serve as an educational resource to all MASCC members and can help identify speakers and topics for scientific sessions, plenary sessions, and workshops at MASCC Annual Meetings.

Along with Psychosocial Study Group leaders, Lidia Schapira and Penny Schofield, Sandra Michiels and Patrick Crombez invite you to join this important new subgroup. Contact Sandra or Patrick to find out how to get involved.

Sandra: [email protected]
Patrick: [email protected]

Research Highlight

MASCC Psychosocial Study Group Review of the 6th Vital Sign
Given the prevalence rates of distress in cancer patients' worldwide, the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) endorsed distress as the “6th vital sign” in June 2009. Subsequently, the journal, Psycho-Oncology devoted a Special Edition (Volume 20, Issue 6, June 2011) to the topic of screening for distress. This issue covers the relevance of screening for distress to help guide patient care in clinical settings. It is available free online.

On behalf of the MASCC Psychosocial Study Group, Dr. Lea Baider, Study Group Co-chair and IPOS Past President, has reviewed the history, meaning, and value of the 6th Vital Sign and of an assessment tool, the Distress Thermometer, for our members: History, Meaning and Evaluation of the Sixth Vital Sign (MS Word, 192KB).

Position Paper

Psychosocial Care for Patients and Their Families is Integral to Supportive Care in Cancer: MASCC Position Statement alt
Surbone A, Baider L, Weitzman TS, Brames MJ, Rittenbert CN, Johnson J. Supportive Care Cancer. 2010. 18:255–263.

This position paper, written on behalf of the MASCC Psychosocial Study Group, reviews the most common psychosocial concerns and needs of cancer patients during all phases of the cancer continuum, from diagnosis to death or survivorship. 


Psycho-oncology: A Mental Health Priority for Patients, Families
By Virginia Anderson, ASCO. This paper features the work of medical oncologist and MASCC member, Antonella Surbone, MD, PhD, FACP. Originally published in ASCO Connection,reprinted with permission. To comment on this article, please visit

Past Workshops


The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer requires that cancer centers implement screening programs for psychosocial distress by 2015 as a new criterion for accreditation. In response to that requirement, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS), and the Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW) have developed a joint position statement on implementing psychosocial distress screening for patients undergoing cancer treatment. The paper addresses eight key issues that must be met before cancer centers can adhere to the new guidelines and provide quality patient care. More information is available from the Oncology Nursing Society

MASCC Psychosocial Study Group has also prepared a 2011 Position statement and Guidelines 

Recent Member Publications

Recent Study Group member publications related to psychosocial issues and cancer supportive care.

Related Links

Please contact the Study Group Chairs above with your questions.
MASCC Study Group Coordinator, Leslie Johnson