One-fifth of cancer patients found to have PTSD, study says
When you think of someone beating cancer, you likely picture people smiling and crying for joy. But a new study found an ugly truth for many cancer survivors.
The research, published Monday in the American Cancer Society's Cancer journal, found that around one-fifth of cancer patients had post-traumatic stress disorder soon after being diagnosed with cancer. A portion of them still had it years later. PTSD can occur in those who have gone through something shocking, scary or dangerous, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Researchers from the National University of Malaysia looked at 469 adults from one oncology referral center, all in a one-month period surrounding their respective diagnoses. They tested them again six months later (with 21.7 percent having PTSD), and then four years later (slipping to just 6.1 percent).
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What's the takeaway here for cancer patients? One of the study authors said these patients need support services in addition to psychological evaluation at the very beginning of treatment and beyond, as mental health and physical health both are critical for patients.
"Many cancer patients believe they need to adopt a 'warrior mentality,' and remain positive and optimistic from diagnosis through treatment to stand a better chance of beating their cancer," study author Caryn Mei Hsien Chan said in a statement. "To these patients, seeking help for the emotional issues they face is akin to admitting weakness. There needs to be greater awareness that there is nothing wrong with getting help to manage the emotional upheaval – particularly depression, anxiety, and PTSD – post-cancer."
That call for greater awareness also requires more research.
"It's important that the longer term emotional impact of cancer continues to be investigated as well as finding out what strategies might prevent PTSD or help people overcome it," Cancer Research UK's head information nurse, Martin Ledwick, told HuffPost UK.