A recent study found that one in five patients experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a few months after staging a cancer diagnosis, and many of these patients continue to live with PTSD after years. The results, published online in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society highlight the need for early detection, careful monitoring and treatment of PTSD in people who have had cancer.
Although PTSD usually develops in people after a traumatic event, such as after a serious accident or disaster, it can occur in patients with cancer. Since PTSD in cancer has not been studied in detail, Karin Mei Xiang Chen of the National University of Malaysia and her colleagues analyzed data from 469 adults with different types of cancer within one month after diagnosis in a cancer center. Patients underwent additional testing in six months and four years.
Clinical evaluations showed that the PTSD rate was 21.7% at follow-up at 6 months, and 6.1% when viewed in four years. Although the overall performance of PTSD decreased over time, about a third of patients initially diagnosed with PTSD, persistent or worsening symptoms after a few years it has been found.
"Many patients with cancer feel that they need to fight and remain positive and optimistic with a diagnosis of the time and during the treatment period to have more chances to beat cancer. Patients are reluctant to ask for help with emotional problems, because it means to acknowledge their weakness, - says Dr. Chen. - It is necessary to realize that there is nothing wrong to have recourse to, to cope with the emotional turmoil, depression, anxiety and PTSD after a cancer diagnosis. "
According to Dr. Chen, many patients live in fear of what cancer can come back and bring new pain and fatigue. In addition, the surviving patients sometimes miss their oncologists and other physicians to avoid memories of past experiences. This can lead to delayed care for new symptoms or even to the abandonment of the treatment.
A study by researchers found that, compared with patients with other types of cancer in patients with breast cancer is 3.7 times less likely to develop PTSD after six months, but more than four years. This may be due to the fact that the center held a special program to provide support and advice, with the main focus on breast cancer patients during the first year of diagnosis of cancer.
"We need a psychological evaluation and support for patients with cancer at an early stage. We continue to monitor the psychological well-being, mental health and quality of life, which are no less important than physical health, "- says Dr. Chan.