Anxiety and depression a major issue for cancer survivors

December 17, 2016

Cancer has a major impact on mental and physical wellbeing, researchers report at the ESMO Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore.

Results from a Malaysian study of 1,362 patients found more than four in five survivors were suffering from anxiety and a similar number had depression a year after diagnosis.

Lead author Shridevi Subramaniam, a research officer at the National Clinical Research Center, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said: "We urgently need new ways of supporting survivors and addressing wider aspects of wellbeing.

"Instead of just focusing on clinical outcome, doctors must focus equally on quality of life for cancer patients especially psychologically, financially and socially."

Researchers included Malaysian patients from the ACTION study (ASEAN Cost in Oncology Study) and nearly a third (33%) had breast cancer. They filled in questionnaires to assess health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Anxiety and depression levels were also included in the survey.

A patient's satisfaction with their physical health and mental wellbeing- or health-related quality of life—is an important end result in cancer care. But the study showed that patients' mental and physical wellbeing was low overall 12 months after diagnosis. The more advanced the cancer, the lower the HRQoL.

The type of cancer was also a factor because disease severity differs. Women with reproductive system cancers, for example, had higher wellbeing scores than lymphoma patients. This could be explained by the fact that lymphoma is often aggressive and progresses quickly while reproductive system cancers, such as cervical, can spread slowly over a number of years. "The key message is to focus more on supporting patients throughout their whole cancer 'journey' especially in their lives after treatment," added Subramanian.

Young pay high mental and social 'cost' for cancer diagnosis

Cancer also has a significant impact on the lives and wellbeing of adolescents and young adults, as reported in a separate ongoing study.

Researchers set out to identify the extent of wellbeing issues and other problems in this group who not only are at major milestones in their lives but also do not expect to develop the disease. The study included patients who were newly diagnosed with cancer (n=56) and with an average age of 28. They completed a survey including questions on occupation and lifestyle, and were also asked about problems around physical symptoms, mental wellbeing and financial issues

Results showed more than a third (37%) were suffering distress at diagnosis of cancer. Nearly half identified the top cause as treatment decisions, followed by family health issues, sleep and worry.

Senior author Associate Professor Alexandre Chan, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore and Specialist Pharmacist, National Cancer Center, Singapore, said: "The young differ from older people because they don't expect to be ill, and certainly not with cancer. They're also at a stage when they're facing many social responsibilities and family burdens. "That's why they need effective supportive care and help in managing the physical, psychological and emotional side-effects that come with both and treatment."

Commenting on these studies, Ravindran Kanesvaran, assistant professor, Duke-NUS Medical School, and Consultant Medical Oncologist, National Cancer Center, Singapore, said: "There is a critical need to find ways of addressing the high levels of distress among in general as highlighted by the Malaysian study.

"The psycho-social impact of cancer on adolescents and young adults also clearly needs further evaluation. This is to assess the impact on quality of life at the time of diagnosis as well as throughout and after treatment.

"What's required are specific interventions to meet the needs of this age group, as well as specially tailored survivorship programmes and supportive care.

"While it's not surprising that the young adult cancer population has a higher risk of suicide, conducting studies like this help us find new ways to address this issue effectively."

Explore further: High rate of antidepressant use after cancer

Related Stories

High rate of antidepressant use after cancer

October 26, 2016
(HealthDay)—Treatment for depression and anxiety is nearly twice as common among U.S. cancer survivors as it is for those who never had the disease, a new study finds.

Mental distress common in survivors of teen, young adult CA

November 23, 2016
(HealthDay)—Survivors of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer are more likely to have mental distress than individuals without cancer, but most do not talk to mental health professionals, according to a study published ...

Many cancer survivors experience financial burdens

March 14, 2016
An analysis of US data from 2011 indicates that nearly 29 percent of cancer survivors are financially burdened as a result of their cancer diagnosis and/or treatment. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal ...

Cancer patients with depression 'struggle to get their lives back after treatment'

May 13, 2016
People with depression are significantly less likely to recover well after treatment for colorectal cancer compared to those without depression, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support and the University of ...

Many cancer survivors face health-related quality of life issues

October 30, 2012
Oct. 30, 2012 – Beating cancer is just the first step.

Racial gaps persist in how breast cancer survivors function

September 20, 2016
An analysis of the quality of life of several thousand breast cancer survivors in North Carolina found differences in how black and white women functioned and felt physically and spiritually during treatment and two years ...

Recommended for you

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

New kinase detection method helps identify targets for developing cancer drugs

September 21, 2017
Purdue University researchers have developed a high-throughput method for matching kinases to the proteins they phosphorylate, speeding the ability to identify multiple potential cancer drug targets.

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

September 21, 2017
Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Poliovirus therapy induces immune responses against cancer

September 20, 2017
An investigational therapy using modified poliovirus to attack cancer tumors appears to unleash the body's own capacity to fight malignancies by activating an inflammation process that counter's the ability of cancer cells ...

Brain cancer growth halted by absence of protein, study finds

September 20, 2017
The growth of certain aggressive brain tumors can be halted by cutting off their access to a signaling molecule produced by the brain's nerve cells, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.