Monday, 30 November 2015

Cancer Treatment Leaves Survivors with PTSD Scars

As many as 1 in 3 cancer patients suffers from PTSD. The healthcare system is just beginning to identify who’s at risk and to help them cope.Before 1994, cancer patients were specifically excluded from the psychiatric definition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So few survived their treatments at the time, there was rarely a “post” to deal with.Today, there are 14 million cancer survivors in the United States, and diagnostic criteria for PTSD have now expanded to include them.That’s left doctors and psychologists trying to figure out how to help these survivors put cancer in the rearview mirror as they live out the rest of their lives.

PTSD was first identified in veterans of World War I and has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for dogging veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.However, the condition can affect anyone who has experienced a serious threat of violence or death.Cancer patients, told they may die and often put through physically grueling treatments, are certainly at risk. But there's much less data to document their struggles.The best research on PTSD in adult cancer patients followed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients for 10 years after their treatment ended. It found that more than one third had lasting symptoms of PTSD. Another 12 percent reported they once had symptoms, but those had since faded.Research on post-traumatic stress among breast cancer survivors found that 14 percent reported symptoms 15 months after treatment.Because the link between cancer and PTSD is relatively new, few cancer patients actually get an official diagnosis, but many have a range of symptoms.
PTSD Can Be a Killer Long After Trauma Subsides Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the inability to relax for fear that a trauma will return, as well as the avoidance of things associated with the trauma, such as a certain part of town. It can also include reliving a traumatic event in nightmares and flashbacks.Research on PTSD suggests that sufferers are at high risk of suicide.One Seattle woman told Healthline that her mother took her own life after surviving cancer because she was convinced it would come back.“She never got over the fact that, despite surviving, the cancer would come back and she couldn't bear the pain. The first time she tried [to kill herself], she didn't succeed. She had pneumonia, which made her a bit delusional, and she mistook it for the tumor coming back. When she succeeded, it was because she knew, 10 years after, the cancer would probably come back and she didn't want to wait around,” she said.

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