ESMO Asia 2016 Press Release: Anxiety and Depression a Major Issue for Cancer Survivors

Research to be presented at the ESMO Asia 2016 Congress

  • Date: 18 Dec 2016

LUGANO-SINGAPORE – Cancer has a major impact on mental and physical wellbeing, researchers report at the ESMO Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore.

Results from a Malaysian study (1) of 1,362 patients found more than four in five survivors were suffering from anxiety and a similar number had depression a year after diagnosis.    

Lead author Shridevi Subramaniam, a research officer at the National Clinical Research Centre, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said: “We urgently need new ways of supporting cancer survivors and addressing wider aspects of wellbeing.

“Instead of just focusing on clinical outcome, doctors must focus equally on quality of life for cancer patients especially psychologically, financially and socially.”

Researchers included Malaysian patients from the ACTION study (ASEAN Cost in Oncology Study) and nearly a third (33%) had breast cancer. They filled in questionaires to assess health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Anxiety and depression levels were also included in the survey.

A patient’s satisfaction with their physical health and mental wellbeing- or health-related quality of life - is an important end result in cancer care. But the study showed that patients’ mental and physical wellbeing was low overall 12 months after diagnosis. The more advanced the cancer, the lower the HRQoL.

The type of cancer was also a factor because disease severity differs. Women with reproductive system cancers, for example, had higher wellbeing scores than lymphoma patients. This could be explained by the fact that lymphoma is often aggressive and progresses quickly while reproductive system cancers, such as cervical, can spread slowly over a number of years. 

 “The key message is to focus more on supporting patients throughout their whole cancer ‘journey’ especially in their lives after treatment,” added Subramanian.

Young pay high mental and social ‘cost’ for cancer diagnosis

Cancer also has a significant impact on the lives and wellbeing of adolescents and young adults, as reported in a separate ongoing study (2).

Researchers set out to identify the extent of wellbeing issues and other problems in this group who not only are at major milestones in their lives but also do not expect to develop the disease.

The study included patients who were newly diagnosed with cancer (n=56) and with an average age of 28. They completed a survey including questions on occupation and lifestyle, and were also asked about problems around physical symptoms, mental wellbeing and financial issues

Results showed more than a third (37%) were suffering distress at diagnosis of cancer. Nearly half identified the top cause as treatment decisions, followed by family health issues, sleep and worry.

Senior author Associate Professor Alexandre Chan, Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore and Specialist Pharmacist, National Cancer Centre, Singapore, said: “The young differ from older people because they don’t expect to be ill, and certainly not with cancer. They’re also at a stage when they’re facing many social responsibilities and family burdens.

“That’s why they need effective supportive care and help in managing the physical, psychological and emotional side-effects that come with both cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

Commenting on these studies, Ravindran Kanesvaran, assistant professor, Duke-NUS Medical School, and Consultant Medical Oncologist, National Cancer Centre, Singapore, said: “There is a critical need to find ways of addressing the high levels of distress among cancer survivors in general as highlighted by the Malaysian study.

“The psychosocial impact of cancer on adolescents and young adults also clearly needs further evaluation. This is to assess the impact on quality of life at the time of diagnosis as well as throughout and after treatment.

"What’s required are specific interventions to meet the needs of this age group, as well as specially tailored survivorship programmes and supportive care.

“While it’s not surprising that the young adult cancer population has a higher risk of suicide, conducting studies like this help us find new ways to address this issue effectively.”

-END- 

Notes to Editors

Other quality of life releases in the programme include:

* A study (3) into ‘chemo brain’, a phenomenon where cancer drugs affect concentration and memory. Nurses must assess its impact when supporting patients, according to the researchers. 

* A study (4) showing chemotherapy improves quality of life in lung cancer patients even though toxicity of treatment can make some symptoms worse.

* Research (5) into fingerprint loss among patients receiving chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. The authors recommend counselling for those affected and better awareness-raising by doctors.

References

1 Abstract 496O_PR - ‘Health-related quality of life and psychological distress among cancer survivors in a middle-income Asian country,’ will be presented by Shridevi Subramaniam during Proffered Paper Session: Supportive and palliative care on Sunday 18th December at 09:45 (SGT). 

2 Abstract 498PD_PR ‘Prevalence and types of distress among Adult and Young Adolescent (AYA) newly diagnosed with cancer in Singapore,’ will be presented by Alexandre Chan during Proffered Paper Session: Supportive and palliative care on Sunday 18th December at 16:30 (SGT). 

3 Abstract 500PD_PR - ‘Influencing Factors on Chemotherapy-related Cognitive Impairment in patients with Gastrointestinal Cancer,’ will be presented by Jeong Hye Kim during Proffered Paper Session: Supportive and palliative care on Sunday 18th December 16:30 (SGT).

4 Abstract 493P_PR - ‘A prospective study on quality of life among persons with lung cancer, before and after the chemotherapy treatment – Evidence from South India,’ will be presented by Sabin Katpattil during the Poster Display Session on Sunday 18th December at 13:50 (SGT).

5 Abstract 585P_PR - ‘Evaluation of fingerprint loss in patients under Paclitaxel based chemotherapy regimen,’ will be presented by Samaneh Sarbaz during the Poster Display Session on Sunday 18th December at 13:50 (SGT).

Disclaimer

This press release contains information provided by the authors of the highlighted abstracts and reflects the content of those abstracts. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ESMO and ESMO cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Commentators quoted in the press release have filled in the ESMO disclosure form in accordance with the ESMO Declaration of Interests policy. 

About the European Society for Medical Oncology

ESMO is the leading professional organisation for medical oncology. Comprising more than 15,000 oncology professionals from over 130 countries, we are the society of reference for oncology education and information. We are committed to supporting our members to develop and advance in a fast-evolving professional environment.

Founded in 1975, ESMO has European roots and a global reach: we welcome oncology professionals from around the world. We are a home for all oncology stakeholders, connecting professionals with diverse expertise and experience. Our educational and information resources support an integrated, multi-professional approach to cancer treatment. We seek to erase boundaries in cancer care as we pursue our mission across oncology, worldwide.

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