Abstract The burden of cancer in the worldwide context continues to grow, with an increasing number of new cases and deaths each year. A significant proportion of cancer patients at all stages of the disease trajectory will suffer social, emotional and psychological distress as a result of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Psychosocial interventions have proven efficacious for helping patients and families confront the many issues that arise during this difficult time. This paper reviews the literature detailing the extent of distress in patients, the staffing needed to treat such levels of distress, and the efficacy of psychosocial treatments for cancer patients. This is followed by a summary of the literature on medical cost offset in mental health, other medical populations, and in cancer patients, which supports the notion that psychosocial interventions are not only effective, but also economical. Conclusions support taking a whole-person approach, as advocated by a growing number of health care professionals, which would not only help to treat the emotional and social aspects of living with cancer, but also provide considerable long-term cost savings to overburdened health-care systems.