Study: 1 in 5 cancer patients get PTSD-like symptoms

New research shows one in five cancer patients will develop PTSD after their treatment. Some people have anxiety, depression, and stress several years after remission. Gordon Severson explains how it's changing the way doctors treat cancer patients.

MINNEAPOLIS - New research shows 1 in 5 cancer patients will develop PTSD-like symptoms after treatment.

The study was published earlier this month in the medical journal "Cancer."

Research teams in Malaysia and Boston looked at 245 cancer patients over the span of four years.

Nearly 22 percent of those patients developed PTSD-like symptoms within the first six months after diagnosis.

At the end of four years, around 6 percent of patients were still experiencing these symptoms.

Dr. Jeffrey Kendall, the director of Oncology Supportive Care at U of M Health, wasn't surprised to see a link between cancer and PTSD. However, he was surprised to see that it affects around 1 in 5 patients.

"What we can glean from this study is how impactful cancer is emotionally and that these emotions for some people last far beyond their treatment," Kendall says.

Many doctors already knew about this connection, Kendall says, but he's hoping these latest stats will inspire even more medical professionals to consider how cancer treatment can affect the patient's mental health, as well as their physical well-being.

"The body's reaction to emotional states, like stress and depression, impact the effectiveness of the cancer treatments themselves," Kendall says. "The two go hand-in-hand."

Cancer survivor Ruth Bachman wasn't shocked by the study either.

She currently lives in Eden Prairie and was first diagnosed with cancer in her wrist back in 2003.

"The PTSD is real and acknowledging the fact that it's real is very important," Bachman says.

During Bachman's treatment, doctors had to amputate her dominant left hand. She says at many times it was more difficult to heal mentally than it was physically.

"It's that reality that hits you time and time again, because it doesn't go away," Bachman explains. "Once you are diagnosed with cancer, you are a survivor for the rest of the time you are living."

Bachman is hoping patients will see this study and will realize they're not alone if they're dealing with PTSD.

She's hoping more patients will feel comfortable asking their medical providers for help if they start developing depression, stress or anxiety after their cancer goes into remission.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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