We all do know that being a cancer survivor means that you are at an increased risk to suffer serious psychological distress such as anxiety and depression The surprise is that this increased susceptibility can extend even a decade after the treatment ends.
Survivors who are diagnosed in their younger years, 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. However, even we older men who might not fit these categories still are at a greater risk for psychological difficulties than the general population.
A recent study appears in the July 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine examining this increased risk in cancer survivors. The study was conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The researchers gauged the long-term psychological impact of cancer by analyzing the mental health and medical data on 4,636 adults who’d survived cancer and 122,220 who had never had cancer. All the date used in this study 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 only 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 might be higher.
Zabora said that, “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. 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.”
We all know from our own personal experience that being diagnosed with any cancer and then getting through the treatments is among the most trying experiences any of us could experience. With the grace of God, we hope that many of the symptoms from prostate cancer tre