Navigation Links
Cancer Survivors Face Tough Road Long After Treatment Ends

Study shows they're at increased risk of psychological distress years later

THURSDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer survivors are more likely than their healthy peers to suffer serious psychological distress such as anxiety and depression, even a decade after treatment ends, new research shows.

Those who were relatively young at the time of diagnosis, unmarried, had less than a high school education, were uninsured, had other illnesses or had difficulty doing the activities of daily living were at the highest risk of psychological problems.

The study appears in the July 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The United States is home to 12 million cancer survivors, or 4 percent of the population, numbers that are expected to rise as cancer screening improves and Baby Boomers age, according to the researchers, from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

To gauge the long-term psychological impact of the disease, they analyzed mental health and medical data on 4,636 adults who'd survived cancer and 122,220 who had never had cancer. The data was collected between 2002 and 2006 by the National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted yearly by the U.S. Census Bureau.

During a follow-up period of at least five years and an average of 12 years, about 5.6 percent of cancer survivors were found to have experienced severe psychological distress within the previous month, compared with 3 percent of those without cancer.

Dr. James Zabora, a former associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has researched cancer and mental health issues, said the study was well done but that the measure of mental health has not been scientifically validated for use in cancer survivors.

In fact, he said, he suspected the incidence of mental health issues among cancer survivors may be higher.

"It's a well-designed study, and the investigators document a significant issue, that is, survivors of cancer continue to struggle well after their treatment and recovery," said Zabora, now dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service. "But you could argue maybe this instrument under-diagnosed psychological distress."

Those who are younger, single, have less education and no insurance may suffer more because they have fewer resources to draw from to get through it, he noted.

"When you are faced with a serious stressor, in order for you to respond to it, you have to define what it means for you," Zabora said. "That process depends on how many resources you have to manage that stressor. The younger you are, the less experience you have dealing with stressors. The lower your education, the more difficult it is to understand the complex nature of the disease. If you're unmarried, you may have less support."

Getting a diagnosis of cancer and going through chemotherapy can be among life's most trying experiences, said Kevin Stein, the American Cancer Society's director of quality-of-life research.

The physical and emotional fallout of cancer treatment, including fatigue, pain, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores and hair loss, can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

While many of these symptoms may subside or disappear after treatment ends, some, including fatigue, can linger for months or years.

Chemotherapy can also cause delayed problems that aren't apparent until months or years later, including peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain or numbness), infertility, organ dysfunction, hearing loss, muscle atrophy and cardiovascular disease.

"Chemotherapy is an effective treatment because it's toxic to the cancer cells, but sometimes it does collateral damage," Stein said.

Cancer can also bring about job loss and changes to relationships, including family roles and sexual intimacy. Survivors also may fear the cancer will recur, worries that may contribute to psychological distress.

In the study, 9 percent of long-term cancer survivors and 6 percent of individuals without cancer reported seeing or talking to a mental health professional within the previous year. One-third of cancer survivors with serious psychological distress reported using mental health services, while 18 percent said they could not afford mental health care.

Screening for psychological distress in cancer survivors by primary-care physicians and oncologists may help direct people to services that can help them cope, Stein said.

Some may find benefit from anti-anxiety medications, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy and stress management techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

And don't underestimate the power of eating a proper diet, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, Stein said.

"All of those things impact mood in a positive way and can help manage distress," Stein said. "And always stay in touch with your doctor. When you recognize signs of emotional distress, discuss it."

More information

The American Cancer Society has resources to help cancer survivors cope.

SOURCES: Kevin Stein, Ph.D, director, quality of life research, American Cancer Society; James Zabora, D.Sc., dean, National Catholic School of Social Service, Washington, D.C.; July 27, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine

Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Texas on Top of Cancer Research: Dallas Regional Chamber Hosts Forum on New $3 Billion Fund
2. Brain Scan May Help Predict Cancer Drug Response
3. Living Green Marketplace Announces the Cancer Care Wellness Box to Bring Comfort to Cancer Patients During Medical Treatment
4. Ritas Squeezes Pediatric Cancer with $451,000 Donation
5. Chinese women join global breast cancer trial
6. AstraZeneca Submits New Drug Applications for ZACTIMA(TM) in Second-Line Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
7. National Cancer Coalition Announces Angel Grant Recipients
8. JNCI news brief: Antibody linked to chemotherapy drug inhibits ovarian cancer in lab
9. HPV Infection May Be Linked to Poor Head and Neck Cancer Survival Rates in African Americans
10. New Spanish-Language Consumer Guides Compare Treatments for Depression, Prostate Cancer and Other Conditions
11. Tanning Beds Now Listed as Top Cancer Risk
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Cancer Survivors Face Tough Road Long After Treatment Ends
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Dr. Thomas Dunlap and Dr. Patrick Coleman ... with Emergency Medicine at St., Joseph Health System’s Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital , ... in similar ways and require time-critical intervention to avoid large area heart damage and ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 27, 2015 , ... Indosoft Inc., developer and distributor of ... 11 LTS (Long Term Support) into its Q-Suite 5.10 product line. , Making ... with a version of Asterisk that will receive not only security fixes, but ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... Inevitably when people think Thanksgiving, they ... to buy during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday massage chair sales ... the Internet high and low to find the best massage chair deals, they can ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... Somu Sivaramakrishnan announced today that ... Somu now offers travelers, value and care based Travel Services, including exclusive pricing ... well as, cabin upgrades and special amenities such as, shore excursions, discounted fares, ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... Omaha, NE (PRWEB) , ... November 26, 2015 , ... ... careers searched by healthcare professionals and offered by healthcare staffing agency Aureus Medical ... top during the month of October 2015 among those searching for healthcare jobs through ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 26, 2015  The total global healthcare industry is expected ... Latin America has the highest projected ... Japan ), is second with growth projected ... face increased healthcare expenditure. In 2013-2014, total government funded healthcare ... in 2008-2009 to 41.2% in 2013-2014. In real terms, out ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 AAIPharma ... planned investment of at least $15.8  Million to ... Wilmington, NC . The expansion will ... to meet the growing demands of the pharmaceutical ... site expansion will provide up to 40,000 ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... AVIV, Israel , November 25, 2015 ... (NASDAQ: KTOV ) (TASE: KTOV), a biopharmaceutical company ... simultaneous treatment of various clinical conditions, today announced the ... 3,158,900 American Depository Shares ( ADSs ), each representing ... purchase up to 3,158,900 ADSs. The ADSs and warrants ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: