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Anxiety Often Plagues Cancer Survivors and Their Loved Ones

TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer survivors and their partners have an increased long-term risk of anxiety but not depression, researchers have found.

For the new study, investigators analyzed data from 27 publications that reported on a total of 43 comparison studies and found that levels of depression were similar among adults without cancer and adult cancer survivors two or more years after diagnosis, 10.2 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively.

However, cancer survivors were 27 percent more likely to report anxiety two or more years after their diagnosis and 50 percent more likely to experience anxiety 10 or more years after diagnosis, the findings indicated.

The researchers also found that cancer survivors' partners were even more likely than survivors to experience anxiety over the long term (40 percent versus 28 percent). Depression rates were similar among cancer survivors and their partners, according to the study published online June 4 in The Lancet Oncology.

"Depression is an important problem after cancer but it tends to improve within two years of a diagnosis unless there is a further complication. Anxiety is less predictable and is a cause for concern even 10 years after a diagnosis. However, detection of anxiety has been overlooked compared with screening for distress or depression," lead author Alex Mitchell, of Leicester General Hospital in England, said in a journal news release.

"Our results suggest that, after a cancer diagnosis, increased rates of anxiety tend to persist in both patients and their relatives. When patients are discharged from hospital care they usually receive only periodic check-ups from their medical teams and this autonomy in the post-acute period can be anxiety-provoking," Mitchell said.

"Further, the provision of rehabilitation and specialist emotional help is currently patchy. Efforts should be made to improve screening for anxiety and increase follow-up support for both survivors and their families," he added.

By 2020, more than 21 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer each year. About 70 percent of cancer patients now survive for five or more years after diagnosis, however, it is unknown how this experience affects the long-term mental health of survivors and their loved ones, the study authors pointed out.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about cancer survivors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, news release, June 4, 2013

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