Anxiety increases the odds of early mortality in lung cancer patients, finds study

It is common for people with suspected cancer to suffer from anxiety, especially while undergoing cancer screening tests or taking cancer treatment. Apparently, when cancer is accompanied by debilitating mental ailments like anxiety, it might interfere with one’s ability to sleep and increase feelings or pain, apart from affecting the overall quality of life.

A research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in January 2017 revealed that patients who suffer from anxiety and depression after being diagnosed with cancer are likely to die early. This is a first of its kind study to examine the influence of anxiety and depression on the survival rates of lung cancer patients. Previous studies had thrown light on the effects of anxiety and depression on breast cancer patients and found that the diagnosis of the disease had a significant psychological impact on them.

For decades, health care professionals have been trying to find a link between cancer and common psychological ailments. But in the absence of a suitable long-term study, they were unable to establish the alleged connection. According to Andrea Vodermaier, lead author of the survey and post-doctoral research fellow in the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), “Our study confirms that there is indeed a link for lung cancer patients, and that it’s important for health-care providers to treat not only their tumor but also focus on the full emotional experience of the patient.”

During the course of the study, 684 patients undergoing treatment for stage three non-small cell lung cancer, at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, were required to complete a psychological screening questionnaire regarding their anxiety and depression symptoms. It was reported that patients who felt anxious and depressed after the diagnosis had a shorter life span, in comparison to those who were unperturbed despite the diagnosis. However, the study did not have enough evidence to show that increased anxiety and depression had a direct correlation with the high mortality rate. According to senior author Dr. Robert Olson, division head of radiation oncology and developmental radio therapeutics at UBC, “The findings were unable to assess if the comorbid psychological factors were responsible for the negative outcomes and poor survival rates.”

Cancer and mental disorders

For people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, anxiety and depression are quite common. It had been estimated that 15-25 percent of those diagnosed with cancer undergo a depressive episode. Anticipatory grief, or grief that arises when one knows that death is near, can be crippling not only for the patient but also for the family members. Other reasons that contribute to high levels of anxiety are financial liabilities, stigma or shame of cancer, social isolation, especially in the case of the aged, and pain.

Once cancer has been diagnosed, many patients feel overwhelmed by the associated anxiety and depression. Many find it difficult to turn their thoughts away from the disease. With the disease crippling many aspects of their life, patients are often worried about how their dependents would cope post their demise. Unlike breast cancer, there are fewer support groups for people fighting with lung cancer and hence, they are more isolated and prone to anxiety. Precisely, the diagnosis of cancer ups the chances of a person committing suicide under the effect of anxiety or depression.

Road to recovery

A cancer diagnosis is not the end of the road. With modern medicine and technology, one can still lead a quality life. However, stress and anxiety often take away several years from a person’s life. With proper coping techniques and therapy, it is quite possible to keep cancer-related stress at bay.

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety disorders, contact the Florida Helpline for Anxiety for immediate assistance. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9834 or chat online with our experts to find the best anxiety treatment centers in Florida.

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