Thursday, 25 April, 2024

Optimism Helps Defeat Cancer

Gavrilova Diana


Approximately one in five cancer patients struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after diagnosis and treatment. A recent study from Malaysia shows that PTSD is a fairly common outcome of a long and complex cancer treatment process. Although more often this disorder is associated with soldiers returning from war, PTSD can be the result of various injuries.
Researchers at the National University of Malaysia observed 469 cancer patients, ranging from one month to four years after diagnosis. About 20 per cent had some symptoms of PTSD six months after the diagnosis. By the fourth year, this proportion had dropped to just over six per cent, although a third of those diagnosed were actually more severe after four years. This is a reminder that cancer can be detrimental even many years after remission, and evidence that counselling services and pharmacological interventions may be needed for some cancer patients.
PTSD is characterised by frequent recollections of a traumatic event, as well as painful and intrusive images and nightmares. Those who suffer from the disorder are often at the limit and may experience depression and anxiety as a result of trauma, be prone to outbreaks of violence or emotional outbursts and have difficulty communicating with those closest to them.
Many cancer patients believe that they need to remain positive and optimistic from the time of diagnosis to treatment in order to have a better chance of defeating their cancer. For these patients, seeking help on the emotional issues they face is akin to acknowledging weakness. You need to realise that there is nothing wrong with getting help in overcoming emotional upheavals, especially depression, anxiety, and PTSD after cancer.
There are some signs that interventions, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, can help cancer patients cope with the stress of the disease, and various medications can also provide some relief. Indeed, among patients with breast cancer who received special care and therapy at the hospital in which the study was conducted, the frequency of PTSD was more than three times lower. 
This is promising, although, as a review of the PTSD treatment for cancer patients in 2016 showed, much of the strong evidence for the benefits of therapy is still small, and further research is needed.
Therapeutic benefits may also come from an unexpected place: psychedelics. Two studies published last year described how administration of psilocybin to terminally ill cancer patients affected their anxiety and depression levels. 
Both studies found a significant improvement in the condition of patients and showed that this helped them come to terms with the disease. The same effect could have occurred for those who deal with protracted cancer.