Adult cancer survivors at higher emotional distress risk

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Washington, July 28 (ANI): A new study on long-term cancer survivors has shown that cancer history can nearly double the risk of serious psychological distress.

Karen E. Hoffman, M.D., M.H.Sc., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and colleagues studied participants in the National Health Interview Survey, a cross-sectional in-person survey conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Participants in the 2002 to 2006 surveys were asked questions about their history of cancer and assessed using a scale of serious psychological distress.

The researchers compared the responses of 4,636 individuals who had survived five years or longer following the diagnosis of an adult-onset cancer with those of 122,220 individuals who had never had cancer.

A total of 5.6 percent of cancer survivors screened positive for severe psychological distress within the previous 30 days, compared with 3 percent of those without cancer.

"After adjustment for other clinical and sociodemographic variables, long-term survivors who were younger, were unmarried, had less than a high school education, were uninsured, had more comorbidities or had difficulty performing instrumental activities of daily living were more likely to experience serious psychological distress," the authors said.

The researchers noted that a history of cancer may affect current mental health in several ways.

"Cancer diagnosis and treatment can produce delayed detrimental effects on physical health and functioning such as secondary cancers, cardiac dysfunction, lung dysfunction, infertility, neurological complications and neurocognitive dysfunction," they said.

"A cancer history can also affect social adaptation, employment opportunities and insurance coverage. Adjusting to these functional and life limitations may create long-term psychological stress," they added.

A total of 9 percent of long-term cancer survivors and 6 percent of individuals without cancer reported seeing or talking to a mental health professional within the previous 12 months.

One-third of survivors with serious psychological distress reported using mental health services, whereas 18 percent said they could not afford mental health care during the previous year.

The study is published in the July 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. (ANI)

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