Who is considered a cancer survivor

Many cancer survivors have PTSD

KUALA LUMPUR. The "post-traumatic stress symptom" (PTSD) is known as the result of traumatic experiences such as violent crimes, natural disasters or serious accidents. The results of a recent study by the National University of Malaysia now show that around one in five cancer patients develops it a few months after diagnosis - and continues to suffer from it years later.

The results of this study have now been published for the first time in the online magazine "CANCER" of the "American Cancer Society".

The team around Dr. Caryn Mei HsienChan examined 469 adults with various cancers one month after diagnosis, an additional six months afterwards and finally again after four years.

After six months, almost 22 percent of the study participants developed a PTSD. Four years later, six percent continued to suffer from it. Breast cancer patients developed 3.7 times less PTSD than patients with any other type of cancer after six months. But after four years there was no difference. The study authors identified existing programs for the care and counseling of breast cancer patients in the first year after diagnosis as a possible reason for this.

"Many cancer patients believe they need to adopt a fighting stance and be positive and optimistic to improve their chances of fighting cancer," said Dr. Chan. Many of these patients feel that the request for emotional help is an expression of weakness. In fact, they need a greater awareness that there is nothing wrong with accepting help in dealing with the emotional consequences of their cancer.

In their study, the scientists found that many patients lived with the fear that the cancer might return. With every pain, fever, or bout of fatigue, they feared they would have cancer again. Cancer survivors also avoided visits to the oncologist to prevent memories of previous cancers from being triggered.

"We need psychological evaluation and offers of help for cancer patients in the early stages and beyond," said Dr. Chand. Mental well-being is just as important as physical health. (eb)