A recently published study examining the increased risk for suicide among recently diagnosed cancer patients found them at an increased risk of 20 percent as compared to the general population, and that those at greatest risk were patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The study, which was based on data gathered by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service in London and published in JAMA Psychiatry, included information gathered from nearly 5 million adults between the ages of 18 and 99. It found that suicide accounted for 0.08% of deaths recorded in a follow-up 22 years later.
Lead researcher Katherine E. Henson, Mac, DPhil wrote that “a diagnosis of cancer carries a substantial risk of psychological distress,” and there may be “an unmet need for psychological support,” and noted that the highest risk for suicide was seen in those with mesothelioma, who had a 4.51-fold risk. Mesothelioma patient suicides were followed by those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, and stomach cancer.
According to senior study author Dr. Alexandra Pitman of University College London, these suicides in mesothelioma patients may have been preventable. “We found suicide risk to be highest in the first six months after diagnosis,” she said. She noted that patients may be turning to suicide in the face of a terminal diagnosis fear treatment side effects, suffering, and diminishment of their quality of life. “In clinical work with cancer patients it is apparent that some patients can become depressed or anxious as a psychological reaction to diagnosis, treatment, relapse, end of life care, or survivorship. For these patients it would be particularly important to screen for low mood, hopelessness, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as to ensure good pain control, and to ensure they are clear about how to access psychological support. Caregivers may also need their own psychological support.”
Having proper support is essential for mesothelioma patients. For assistance with finding the resources you need, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.