Mental health services underutilized by cancer patients

The prevalence of major psychiatric disorders is as common in cancer patients as they are in the general population, with the exception of panic disorder which had elevated rates compared to the general population (5 percent versus 1.7 percent, respectively). However, fewer than half of advanced cancer patients with major psychiatric complaints receive care from a mental health provider, according to a study published in the December 15, 2005 issue of CANCER (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/cancer-newsroom), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The study, one of the first to relate prevalence and use of mental health services and terminal cancer patients, suggests that Caucasian patients and patients who discuss their psychiatric complaints are more likely to receive care.

Cancer patients have several factors that contribute to emotional distress. Psychiatric disorders left untreated in terminal cancer patients have been demonstrated to worsen the quality of life in such areas as pain control and physical disability, adversely affect treatment compliance and shorten survival. Data suggest that the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in early stage cancer patients is far less than advanced stage cancer patients. However, the prevalence of psychiatric disease in the latter is poorly understood with estimates varying from 3 to 38 percent. In order to improve the quality of life in advanced cancer patients, researchers set out to understand the extent of the problem of psychiatric disease and how mental health services are being utilized.

First author, Nina S. Kadan-Lottick, M.D., M.S.P.H. of the Yale University School of Medicine and the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, CT, examined data from the Coping with Cancer (CWC) Study. The CWC is an NIH-funded multi-site longitudinal study of advanced cancer patients and caregivers (MH63892, CA106370; PI: H. Prigerson). Two

Contact: David Greenberg
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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