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The emotional trauma of cancer worries researchers, doctors

There's no question that cancer, including mesothelioma, is a traumatic diagnosis to hear -- and the treatments are often brutal in their own way.

The trauma can actually be so severe that up to 20 percent of their patients end up developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It doesn't take very long to develop, either. Most people develop it in six months or less.

It also doesn't necessarily go away because the cancer does. Remission rates have no effect on the PTSD, which can linger long after the cancer treatments have stopped.

It's important to note that studies didn't focus specifically on mesothelioma patients. All cancer types were included in the studies. This allowed researchers to capture information from groups of cancer victims who don't typically get much social or emotional support.

The trauma of the cancer, combined with the trauma of the cancer treatments -- which are often physically difficult -- can leave patients with emotional scars that run terribly deep.

Doctors (and the families of cancer patients) worry that PTSD may go untreated. That can end up causing problems in the cancer victim's life, since depression is a common feature of PTSD.

In addition, researchers and doctors worry that cancer patients with undiagnosed PTSD may end up ignoring signs that their cancer has returned, is progressing or simply causing them to give up on treatment. Avoidance is a primary symptom of PTSD. Patients having a PTSD crisis might skip appointments, cancel scans, avoid blood tests or delay reporting new or reoccurring symptoms to their doctors.

If you're a cancer patient, consider having a few consultations with a mental health professional to explore the possibility that your cancer and treatment have created PTSD.

In addition, if you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma or a cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure, it might be wise to find out more about your legal rights and the type of compensation that you could be due.

Source:, "Mesothelioma and Other Cancer Diagnoses Create PTSD Symptoms in 20% of Patients," Nov. 20, 2017

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