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Patients With Mesothelioma and Other Cancers Have Increased Suicide Risk

It has long been understood that patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma need emotional support as much as they need medical treatment. The painful and aggressive form of cancer can quickly sap both spirit and energy. But a new report out of Florence, Italy has made it even clearer that these patients require psychological support from the moment of diagnosis. The report has indicated that patients diagnosed with any form of cancer have a 55% increased risk for suicide when compared to those who do not have a malignancy.

Depression and loss of will to live is frequently seen in those diagnosed with mesothelioma, but lead researcher Raffaella Calati, PhD says that there are steps that can be taken to offset this effect. She urges multimodality teams to ensure that psychological support and psychotherapeutic treatments be incorporated at the time that a patient is first diagnosed with cancer.

The study was conducted by staff at the Department of Emergency Psychiatry and Post-Acute Care, Lapeyronie Hospital and University of Montpellier, France, and was presented at the European Psychiatric Association 2017 Congress. Though the group has not yet identified exactly which interventions have proven to be most effective for those diagnosed with cancer, they did conduct an analysis of the 15 high-quality studies that had been done on links between cancer and suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and suicide deaths.  What they found was that the risk for suicide death in cancer patients was 1.55, though they did not find the same type of association for those who had attempted suicide or who had experienced suicide ideation. They attribute this to the fact that there were a smaller number of studies for this subset.

Upon reviewing the information presented by the group, Julian Beezhold, MD, FRCPsych and consultant in emergency psychiatry at Hellesdon Hospital in the United Kingdom said, “The study brings together a substantial body of research relating to cancer and suicide. In particular, it alerts clinicians to the importance of considering the psychological well-being of people living with a cancer diagnosis. Beezhold is also the secretary general of the European Psychiatric Association.

The group is planning on continuing their studies, expanding their review of existing data. In the meantime, those who serve the mesothelioma community are expanding their support offerings and making more resources available. For information on a supportive mesothelioma community and additional services, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net. We can be reached through our website, or at 1-800-692-8608.



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