Cancer survivors experiencing stress 10 years after all clear


A recent report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, has reported that cancer survivors are experiencing stress and trauma symptoms similar to those experienced by combat veterans up to ten years after they have been given the all clear.

Sophia Smith and her team from the Duke Cancer Institute in North Carolina, surveyed 566 patients with a relatively common form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma . It was reported in earlier research with the same cancer patients that approximately one-in-twelve patients met the criteria for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and were reporting symptoms including flashbacks, avoidance of anything that reminded them of the disease, heightened arousal such as being constantly ‘on edge’ and having disturbing thought patterns.

The current study was to establish whether the symptoms of PTSD were long term. The research concluded that 37 percent of the patients who weren’t clinically diagnosed with PTSD, but experienced one or two symptoms of the condition such as avoidance and emotional withdrawal continued to experience symptoms and in some cases these had worsened.

This current research highlights a potential gap in the care cancer patients are receiving for the psychological harm the disease causes. Additionally the results raise questions as to whether patients who are given the all clear are avoiding annual cancer follow-ups because they find them too stressful and distressing.