Psychological Stress and Chronic Illness Among Survivors of Cancer

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Chronic health conditions related to previous cancer treatments may cause emotional distress among survivors.
Chronic health conditions related to previous cancer treatments may cause emotional distress among survivors.

Chronic health conditions related to previous cancer treatments may cause emotional distress among survivors, according to a study published in Cancer.1

Improvements in cancer treatment have led to an increasingly large population of survivors. One study found that, in contrast with siblings, survivors of childhood cancer are more than 2.5 times as likely to develop serious illnesses later in life.2

In an effort to determine the causal factors associated with the increased risk of psychological issues in this survivor population, researchers evaluated data from 5021 participants involved in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01120353). The participants were assessed for symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

The median age of cancer diagnosis was 8.3 years, the median age at baseline for this study was 24.3 years, and the median age for second follow-up was 32 years.

There was an increased prevalence of cardiovascular, endocrine, and pulmonary conditions related to cancer treatment among patients with high scores on the stress measurements. Participants with a pulmonary condition were 40% more likely to have symptoms of depression.

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The authors do not seriously discuss whether these psychological issues are related to cancer diagnosis and treatment, and may themselves be causal factors of the noted physical ailments.

The authors conclude that chronic health conditions may indicate which patients are in need of psychological screening. Other interventions, such as physical exercise, may help to improve both physical and psychological health in this population.

References

  1. Vuotto SC, Krull KR, Li C, et al. Impact of chronic disease on emotional distress in adult survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the childhood cancer survivor study. Cancer. 2016 Oct 20. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30348 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Armstrong GT, Kawashima T, Leisenring W, et al. Aging and risk of severe, disabling, life-threatening, and fatal events in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32:1218-1227.

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