PTSD Is An Issue For Many Cancer Survivors


Trauma comes in many forms, and a recently published study indicates post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is experienced by one-fifth of cancer survivors.

A team at the National University of Malaysia studied 469 adults with various forms of cancer. The patients were assessed within a month of their cancer diagnosis, again after six months, and four years later.

At the six-month followup, there was a 21.7 percent incidence of PTSD among the patients. Though the rate dropped to 6.1 percent at the four-year followup, it meant a third of the patients were still living with persistent or increasing PTSD symptoms.

“Many cancer patients believe they need to adopt a warrior mentality, and remain positive and optimistic from diagnosis through treatment to stand a better chance of beating their cancer,” said Dr. Caryn Mei Hsien Chan, Ph.D., National University of Malaysia. “To these patients, seeking help for the emotional issues they face is akin to admitting weakness. There needs to be greater awareness that there is nothing wrong with getting help to manage the emotional upheaval - particularly depression, anxiety, and PTSD - post-cancer.”

Dr. Chan points out that many cancer survivors are continuously fearful that the cancer will return, and may even skip medical appointments owed to memories of past treatment experiences. This can delay getting help for new cancer symptoms, or for unrelated conditions.

The researchers also found that patients with breast cancer were, more than other cancer types, less likely to have PTSD onset at six months, but not at four years. However, this may be owed to the breast cancer counseling program offered within the first year of diagnosis at the study’s patient referral center.

“We need psychological evaluation and support services for patients with cancer at an initial stage and at continued follows-up because psychological well-being and mental health - and by extension, quality of life - are just as important as physical health,” said Dr. Chan.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Kai Schreiber

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