The diagnosis of cancer can take a toll on the mental wellbeing of a person and about 3 in 10 cancer patients struggle with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Dr. Anja Mehnert, a professor of psychosocial oncology at the University of Leipzig in Germany, who is the lead author of the study, reveals that many people are able to deal with stress related to their cancer diagnosis. However, about 32 percent of the patients develop psychological disorders.
The research was conducted across inpatient and outpatient cancer centers across Germany and included over 2,100 cancer patients. These patients were interviewed about the emotional and mental stress due to cancer diagnosis. The findings revealed that the prevalence of psychological disorders varied by the type of cancer a patient was treated with.
The findings reveal that about 42 percent of breast cancer patients and about 41 percent of patients diagnosed with neck and head cancer were suffering from mental disorders. Around 39 percent of malignant melanoma patients, 22 percent prostate cancer patients, 21 percent stomach cancer patients and 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients also suffered from some sort of mental disorders.
Dr. Mehnert reveals that the latest study is one of a kind and is the largest till date that assessed emotional and mental health of cancer patients using an entirely diagnostic and standardized face-to-face interview.
"It is normal to feel distress if you have cancer. It's not unusual to develop a mental disorder," says Dr. Mehnert. "You don't have to feel ashamed. Many people still think that if they see a mental health professional, they are weak or are not able to cope well with their disease. That's just not so."
The findings are significant as it supports the notion that doctors should be aware of emotional and mental distress of cancer diagnosis and should provide relevant counseling when as soon as possible. The study should also encourage cancer patients to seek psychological support if necessary. Un-treated mental disorders may worsen the situation, which can be harmful to the patient.
Psychological support service may include family, couples, individual or group psychotherapy. The authors of the study also suggest imagery and relaxation therapy that can help a patient reduce mental disorders.
The study also sheds light on the type of cancer patients, who need more support.
The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.