Cancer Survivors Can Develop PTSD, Too

health day

MONDAY, Nov. 20, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- People usually imagine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as happening to war veterans or assault victims.

But new research shows the trauma of a cancer scare often leaves survivors with the condition.

Many may not want to admit how they feel, the study's lead author said.

"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," explained Caryn Mei Hsien Chan of the National University of Malaysia.

"To these patients, seeking help for the emotional issues they face is akin to admitting weakness," she said.

In their study, Chan and her colleagues tracked outcomes for 469 adults with different types of cancer. The research showed that nearly 22 percent had symptoms of PTSD six months after their cancer diagnosis. And about 6 percent still had the condition four years after diagnosis.

And while overall rates of PTSD did seem to decrease over time, a third of patients who had the condition six months after their cancer diagnosis had either persistent or worsening PTSD four years later, the study found.

Reporting Nov. 20 in the journal Cancer, Chan noted that many patients live in fear that their cancer will return, and may believe that any lump or bump, pain or ache, fatigue or fever indicates a return of the disease.

PTSD can have a real impact on cancer care, she added. Some survivors may skip visits with doctors to avoid triggering memories of their cancer experience, leading to delays in seeking help for new symptoms or even refusal of treatment for unrelated conditions.

Counseling and support are key. For example, the study found that breast cancer patients were 3.7 times less likely to have PTSD six months after diagnosis than patients with other types of cancers. This may be because the breast cancer patients received support and counseling in the first year after cancer diagnosis.

"We need psychological evaluation and support services for patients with cancer at an initial stage and at continued follow-ups because psychological well-being and mental health -- and by extension, quality of life -- are just as important as physical health," Chan said in a journal news release.

"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," she added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Mental Health has more about PTSD.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Nov. 20, 2017

Copyright © 2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

 

2 Comments

Thu Nov 30, 2017 04:11 PM

They should have studied long term cancer survivirs such as myself. I am 35 years out since I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and treated with radiation. Now after all of these years I am dealing with many physical problems due to the radiation given at that time. The amount of radiation given now is much lower. I have lost muscle in my neck and back. Because of that I cant hold my head up ( dropped head syndrome). Also because of the muscle loss in my thoracic and cervical area I cant really hold my upper body up causing me to walk bent over Radiation Fibrosis). I need a walker for mobility and I still can't stand up straight. I have many back problems with pinched nerves and scoliosis now. In 2011 I was able to find out what was wrong with me when I started searching on the internet when I thought the radiation may have something to do with my head being hard to hold uo and my posture was so bad. I was hunched over. I found several articles and studies done3 about the effects of radiation in long term cancer survivors. When I shared this with all of my old oncologist who I hadnt seen in years he had never heard of it and thought that I was self diagnosing myself. My family doctor told me that it would be a waste of time and money to see a neurologist or any other type of testing. The physical therapist I was seeing for help on my posture read the articles and said I think that is what was wrong with me because it described the muscles that I was also having trouble with.The chiropractor that I was going to for the pain in my back said he was able to order an MRI and get me into a pain doctor because he also thought that my physical problems were described in the articles and studies. I had the MRI which he looked at and confirmed to him that I had radiation fibrosis. The radiologist that read the MRI results didn't mention anything about the muscle loss but confirme the problems in my spine. The pain doctor read the MRI and the results from the radiologist sent the MRI back down to another radiologist  for an addendum that confirmed the muscle loss in my neck and back. It has been a stressful journey since 2011. My family doctor also told me that it would be a waste of time to apply for disability since I was a nurse. She said because I didn't have a mental problem and because I was a nurse and had an education that I would never get disability. I really had a hard time at work. I wasnt to the point of needing a walker yet but still had difficulty walking because of my posture. In January of 2012 I had a ruptered bicep in my right dominent arm. I had to be off of work for 3 months. As time was going on I realized that I sould not work anymore. My stamina was decreasing and I was physically getting more bent over. I changed family doctors and found a doctor who believed me and said he would sign disabilty papres. The whole process of getting disability took me about a year and a half. I got denied 2 times and then once a lawyer took my case it was a year and a half until I went before a judge and finally was declared disabled. Then I had to fight for a couple different tests to be done that were suggested being done.  I read a couple different articles that said a cardiac ultrasound and coratid ultrasound should be done on survivors of long term mantle field radiation given in 1983. I changed family doctors again. My new family doctor odered a cardiac ultrasound. My heart was failing with a ejection fraction of 20% when the low normal is 50-55%. I have cardiomyopathy, pumonary hypertention, leaky heart valves, and plaque built up in my carotid arteries and a increased chance of getting another cancer from the radiation. My ejection fraction is now 50% with the help of a cardiologist and the combination of meds he has given me. So I have given all of my background to show the stress that I and others go through trying to figure out what is wrong with them. Then having medical personel as well as family,friends, coworkers and doctors to believe them! So YES I believe that long term survivors can definitley get PTSD! More so I beleive than just 4 years out. Survivors are stressed and tired of the physical difficulties and cancers after all of these years and not being believed. Yet are greatful for the extra years to be with family and friends even though going through allof this years later. Carol Kuehnert

Thu Nov 30, 2017 04:15 PM

They should have studied long term cancer survivirs such as myself. I am 35 years out since I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and treated with radiation. Now after all of these years I am dealing with many physical problems due to the radiation given at that time. The amount of radiation given now is much lower. I have lost muscle in my neck and back. Because of that I cant hold my head up ( dropped head syndrome). Also because of the muscle loss in my thoracic and cervical area I cant really hold my upper body up causing me to walk bent over Radiation Fibrosis). I need a walker for mobility and I still can't stand up straight. I have many back problems with pinched nerves and scoliosis now. In 2011 I was able to find out what was wrong with me when I started searching on the internet when I thought the radiation may have something to do with my head being hard to hold uo and my posture was so bad. I was hunched over. I found several articles and studies done3 about the effects of radiation in long term cancer survivors. When I shared this with all of my old oncologist who I hadnt seen in years he had never heard of it and thought that I was self diagnosing myself. My family doctor told me that it would be a waste of time and money to see a neurologist or any other type of testing. The physical therapist I was seeing for help on my posture read the articles and said I think that is what was wrong with me because it described the muscles that I was also having trouble with.The chiropractor that I was going to for the pain in my back said he was able to order an MRI and get me into a pain doctor because he also thought that my physical problems were described in the articles and studies. I had the MRI which he looked at and confirmed to him that I had radiation fibrosis. The radiologist that read the MRI results didn't mention anything about the muscle loss but confirme the problems in my spine. The pain doctor read the MRI and the results from the radiologist sent the MRI back down to another radiologist  for an addendum that confirmed the muscle loss in my neck and back. It has been a stressful journey since 2011. My family doctor also told me that it would be a waste of time to apply for disability since I was a nurse. She said because I didn't have a mental problem and because I was a nurse and had an education that I would never get disability. I really had a hard time at work. I wasnt to the point of needing a walker yet but still had difficulty walking because of my posture. In January of 2012 I had a ruptered bicep in my right dominent arm. I had to be off of work for 3 months. As time was going on I realized that I sould not work anymore. My stamina was decreasing and I was physically getting more bent over. I changed family doctors and found a doctor who believed me and said he would sign disabilty papres. The whole process of getting disability took me about a year and a half. I got denied 2 times and then once a lawyer took my case it was a year and a half until I went before a judge and finally was declared disabled. Then I had to fight for a couple different tests to be done that were suggested being done.  I read a couple different articles that said a cardiac ultrasound and coratid ultrasound should be done on survivors of long term mantle field radiation given in 1983. I changed family doctors again. My new family doctor odered a cardiac ultrasound. My heart was failing with a ejection fraction of 20% when the low normal is 50-55%. I have cardiomyopathy, pumonary hypertention, leaky heart valves, and plaque built up in my carotid arteries and a increased chance of getting another cancer from the radiation. My ejection fraction is now 50% with the help of a cardiologist and the combination of meds he has given me. So I have given all of my background to show the stress that I and others go through trying to figure out what is wrong with them. Then having medical personel as well as family,friends, coworkers and doctors to believe them! So YES I believe that long term survivors can definitley get PTSD! More so I beleive than just 4 years out. Survivors are stressed and tired of the physical difficulties and cancers after all of these years and not being believed. Yet are greatful for the extra years to be with family and friends even though going through allof this years later. Carol Kuehnert

You must be logged in to post comments.

We care about your feedback. Let us know how we can improve your CancerCompass experience.