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Mesothelioma and Other Cancer Diagnoses Create PTSD Symptoms in 20% of Patients

New research published in the journal Cancer is indicating that as many as one in five patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and other cancers develop symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder – more familiarly known as PTSD – within six months of their illness being diagnosed. For many, the condition remains, even if their cancer symptoms go into remission.  This raises concerns among those dedicated to preserving patients’ quality of life, as the emotional trauma caused by mesothelioma is rarely addressed with the same degree of attention as the physical aspects of the deadly disease.

The international study was conducted by scientists in both Boston, Massachusetts, and in Malaysia, and though it’s not clear whether any of the 245 patients in the study were specifically diagnosed with mesothelioma, the researchers indicate that their findings apply to patients with all types of cancer. Dr. Fremonta Meyer, a psychiatrist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who coauthored the study, compared the study to others that looked narrowly at single types of cancers. “A lot of others have looked only at a few cancer types – like breast cancer, which tends to have more support services. Ours enabled us to capture a wide variety of cancer types, including rare cancers, and those where there isn’t as much social acceptance and support.” Their concern is that the emotional impact of the devastating illness can undermine patients’ ability to bounce back and heal during treatment – that their psychological distress and any associated cognitive problems may even lead to patients missing appointment s for critical treatments.

One of the things that Dr. Meyer expressed, is a concern that longer term support is needed for cancer patients. She fears that unless that type of care is introduced, “we’ll miss people who are really continuing to suffer emotionally.” She goes on to say, “In terms of the consequences of this, and how it might affect one’s cancer treatment, one of the cardinal symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. Patients who are experiencing PTSD may actually avoid having scans going to oncology appointments, things that remind them of the traumatic experience they had.”

The failure of medicine to adequately address the emotional trauma of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer is something that the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net try to make up for with their support and information about emotional and other types of resources. For more information contact us at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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