Cancer patients who receive surgery have a higher risk of suicide up to three years after their treatment.
Researchers from Massachusetts and California looked at data from 1,811,397 patients between 2000 and 2016.
Patients who receive cancer surgery should be closely monitored for psychological distress. Social support from family, friends, and peers can help, too.
Psychological Effects of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of internal organs like the lungs. The current treatment options can be invasive and may not be effective.
It can be a lonely disease for caregivers and patients. Only about 2,500 Americans receive a mesothelioma diagnosis each year making it one of the rarest types of cancer. In many cases, a family may not know anyone else who has the disease.
Feeling isolated can compound the psychological effects of mesothelioma. There is no cure for mesothelioma. Symptoms tend to get rapidly worse. Most newly diagnosed patients have a life expectancy of about a year.
Without sufficient support, the impact of all of this on patients’ and carers’ mental health can be devastating.
Increased Risk of Suicide
This study published in JAMA Oncology looked at cancer patient data that included 15 different types of cancer. This includes cancer that developed in the lungs and other internal organs, like mesothelioma.
There is a significant increased risk of suicide in patients after receiving surgery compared to the general population.
A big factor in this is prognosis. Patients who received treatment for cancer with higher five-year overall survival rate had lower risk of suicide than patients with a poor prognosis.
A lower quality of life after surgery, noticeable physical changes, and limited physical ability also add to an increased risk of suicide.
About half of suicides were committed within the first three years after surgery. The worse the prognosis, the shorter that timeframe became.
It is already recommended by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer to screen cancer patients for psychological distress. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
Efforts to improve distress screening before and after surgery could help to reduce suicide risk among patients undergoing cancer operations, conclude study researchers.
Potter AL, Haridas C, Neumann K, et al. Incidence, Timing, and Factors Associated With Suicide Among Patients Undergoing Surgery for Cancer in the US [published online ahead of print, 2023 Jan 12]. JAMA Oncol. 2023;10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.6549. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.6549. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36633854/