Cancer has a major impact on the mental health of patients, with as many as four in five survivors suffering with anxiety and/or depression a year after their diagnosis, a new study has found.
Researchers in Malaysia looked at 1,362 patients, almost a third of whom had breast cancer. The participants filled in questionnaires to assess their health-related quality of life.
The study found that 12 months after their cancer diagnosis, the patients displayed generally low levels of mental and physical wellbeing. This was especially true if their cancer was at a more advanced stage.
Altogether, more than four in five were suffering with anxiety one year after their diagnosis, and a similar number had depression.
The researchers also noted that the type of cancer appeared to affect quality of life as well. For example, women with cancer of the reproductive system tended to have better wellbeing than patients with lymphoma.
This may be explained by the fact that reproductive cancers, such as cervical cancer, can spread slowly over years, while lymphoma tends to be more aggressive, spreading quickly.
"We urgently need new ways of supporting cancer survivors and addressing wider aspects of wellbeing. The key message is to focus more on supporting patients throughout their whole cancer journey, especially in their lives after treatment," commented the study's lead author, Shridevi Subramaniam, of the National Clinical Research Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
She added that instead of just focusing on a patient's clinical outcome, ‘doctors must focus equally on quality of life for cancer patients, especially psychologically, financially and socially'.
Details of these findings were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore.