Two years after diagnosis, cancer survivors are not more likely to experience depression than the average person, but they are at much greater risk for anxiety, according to new research published in The Lancet Oncology.
The study shows that not only are cancer survivors at greater risk for anxiety, but their partners face similar levels of depression and higher levels of anxiety than the survivors themselves.
“Depression is an important problem after cancer but it tends to improve within 2 years of a diagnosis unless there is a further complication. Anxiety is less predictable and is a cause for concern even 10 years after a diagnosis.
“However, detection of anxiety has been overlooked compared with screening for distress or depression,” said lead author Alex Mitchell from Leicester General Hospital in the UK.
Cancer survivors are living longer — nearly 70 percent of patients live for at least five years after diagnosis. However, not much is known about cancer’s impact on the mental health of survivors and their families.
The study findings showed that while levels of depression in adult cancer survivors two years or longer after diagnosis are almost identical to adults with no history of cancer (11.6 percent vs 10.2 percent), survivors are significantly more likely to develop anxiety (27 percent). And this risk increases to a 50 percent likelihood 10 years or more after diagnosis.
In addition, survivors and their partners seem to experience similar levels of depression, but partners tend to experience even more anxiety than survivors (40.1 percent vs. 28 percent).
The research involved a meta-analysis and systematic review of 43 studies in 27 publications involving close to half a million participants, documenting the prevalence of anxiety and depression in adults with cancer at least two years after diagnosis.
“Our results suggest that, after a cancer diagnosis, increased rates of anxiety tend to persist in both patients and their relatives.
“When patients are discharged from hospital care they usually receive only periodic check-ups from their medical teams and this autonomy in the post-acute period can be anxiety provoking,” said Mitchell.
“Further, the provision of rehabilitation and specialist emotional help is currently patchy. Efforts should be made to improve screening for anxiety and increase follow-up support for both survivors and their families.”
Source: The Lancet Oncology