Cancer can be a devastating illness, and its victims may suffer the same symptoms and psychological side-effects as those that engaged in literal warfare, according to new research. A comprehensive multi-year study on the psychological effects of cancer diagnosis revealed that many suffer from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What is PTSD?
Most associate PTSD with veterans but this mental health concern can strike anyone that has suffered a traumatic event. Some people with PTSD witnessed combat or were the victim of a violent crime or sexual assault. Others with PTSD might have gone through the ordeal of a natural disaster and horrifying aftermath like Hurricane Katrina – or even a terror attack like 9/11. The disorder is common in people that experience ongoing stress after a trigger event.
All these are life-and-death situations – as is a cancer diagnosis. The far-reaching study on PTSD and cancer took place in Malaysia, but the implications are global. The study didn’t single out mesothelioma but considered almost 500 patients that had various types of cancer and recruited them one month after their initial cancer diagnosis and stayed with them for four years (or until they lost their struggle with cancer).
What the study found
The lead author of the study was Dr. Caryn Mei Hsien Cha, titled: Course and predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder in a cohort of psychologically distressed patients with cancer: A 4-year follow-up study. The abstract and findings were published late last year in the medical journal Cancer, published on behalf of the American Cancer Society. This study was groundbreaking because it was one of the first to consider the psychological effects of a cancer diagnosis on patients.
Researchers found that more than 20% of patients diagnosed with cancer showed signs of PTSD a month after diagnosis and in one-third of these cases, the mental health condition became chronic. Of note is that patients with breast cancer were the least likely to develop PTSD symptoms. Most patients had “traditional” PTSD while a small percentage showed signs of subsyndromal PTSD, which essentially means it was partial post-traumatic stress disorder.
Your mental health after a mesothelioma diagnosis
Any cancer diagnosis is traumatic, but with mesothelioma patients, it can be incrementally more frustrating because it was avoidable. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, usually on the job or via second-hand exposure from someone else that worked around asbestos.
If not for unsafe work environments, lack of warnings and preventative measures, the mesothelioma might never have occurred. You may be understandably angry and scared after your diagnosis as you head into your fight with this awful illness.
The data from this study reveals that mental health issues may arise post-diagnosis, but what can you to deserve your peace of mind when you need it most? Research from Australia examined mental health and cancer and found that cognitive behavioral therapy may help.
The American Cancer Society recommends tapping social support to lessen stress and seek treatment for signs of anxiety or depression. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma and are suffering mental health symptoms, please alert your cancer treatment team.
If you have a mesothelioma diagnosis and are looking for help and answers, contact Bergman Draper Oslund. We fight for the rights of mesothelioma victims and won significant settlements totaling more than $700 million for victims sickened by asbestos. Contact us to talk no matter where you live or were exposed to asbestos. Call (888) 647-6007 for a free case evaluation.