Cancer and Mental Health

Results of a large study performed across cancer centers in Germany, published online October 6, 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that 32% of people with cancer experienced some form of clinically relevant mental health challenge, such as anxiety, depressive and adjustment disorders.

Researchers in Germany report that nearly a third of more than 2100 patients with cancer interviewed at inpatient and outpatient care centers experienced a clinically meaningful level of mental or emotional distress that meets the strict diagnostic criteria for mental disorders including anxiety, depressive and adjustment disorders during the prior 4 weeks. The prevalence of these issues varied by cancer type. The highest prevalence was found among patients with breast cancer (42%) and head and neck cancer (41%), followed by malignant melanoma (39%). The lowest prevalence was seen among patients with prostate cancer (22%), stomach cancers (21%), and pancreatic cancer (20%). The study—the largest to date assessing the mental and emotional health of patients with cancer using a fully standardized, diagnostic face-to-face interview—is published in the October 6 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"These findings reinforce that, as doctors, we need to be very aware of signs and symptoms of mental and emotional distress. We must encourage patients to seek evaluation, support, and treatment if necessary as there are long-term risks often associated with more severe, untreated mental health disorders. This research also sheds light on which patients we should watch more closely," said lead study author Anja Mehnert, PhD, a professor of psychosocial oncology at the University of Leipzig in Germany. "We also want to reassure patients who are struggling that they are not alone or unique, and that these mental and emotional challenges can be temporary, especially with effective psychological support or state-of-the-art mental health treatment."

Read the ASCO press release: