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Risk of Suicide in Cancer Patients

Cancer patients are showing an increased risk of suicide according to an Ottawa doctor.

The research paper published on-line this week in the Annals of Oncology, showed the results of the analysis // of 1.3 million cancer cases in the United States by Dr. Wayne Kendal which revealed that 19 out of every 1,000 male cancer patients and four out of every 1,000 female cancer patients committed suicide.

The rate of suicides was found to be about 24 suicides per 100,000 among cancer patients per year, which was between two and two-and-a-half times that of the general population. On the whole the U.S. population records 10.6 suicides per 100,000 people, including cancer patients. This almost fivefold predominance of suicides among male-to-female cancer patients reflects a similar pattern in the general population.

Dr. Kendal, a radiation oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre, pointed out that the risk of suicide varied according to a number of factors, such as prognosis, gender, the stage of the disease, the type of cancer and the patient's family situation.

Dr. Kendal said, “We must get the message out to physicians, nurses and social workers that they should be aware of the potential for suicide in their cancer patients and that maybe, by giving people in need, and their families, more support and providing better symptom control we might be able to foster the desire to continue living.”

A combined analysis of both men and women revealed that cancer with the highest suicide rates were those of the lung and bronchus, head and neck, bladder, myeloma and oesophagus. Breast and liver cancer patients showed the lowest rates.

When split according to sex, however, it was seen that for women, suicide rates were similar despite where the disease hit, except for those suffering colorectal and cervical cancer which had lower suicide rates.

Among men, it was seen that the highest rates were for head a nd neck, liver cancer and myeloma.

The study found that both sexes were more likely to commit suicide if their cancer had already spread from its primary site to distant organs.


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