Major Risks in First Days
This report is both shocking and not one bit surprising. We all remember the crisis of the first days after learning of our diagnosis. Whenever I talk with women who are in the midst of that psychological tornado, I promise that this is emotionally the worst it gets and that they will feel better. We know from general crisis theory that people can only stay in that intense phase of distress for six weeks or so, and it usually is somewhat less long with cancer. Less long because part of what is so hard is not having much information, not having a plan or strategy, and feeling completely out of control. Within a few weeks, those factors usually improve, and we can begin to think about how to cope.
This is a summary from ABC News about a recent study suggesting that the risks of both suicide and a heart attack are greater in the first week after diagnosis. I recently read another study that indicated the overall suicide rate among cancer patients, broken down in a number of ways, is about twice as high as the general population. This is a change, as the data used to be that the suicide rate was lower in cancer patients than in the general world. What has changed? Or are the studies just different or better? I think that many to most people with cancer think at some point about suicide. For most of us, it is really about control, worry about suffering, and a need to feel there is a back door if we need it. This report is about something different. Here is the beginning and then a link to read more:
Cancer Diagnosis Ups Risk of Suicide, Cardiovascular Death
By KATIE MOISSE April 4, 2012
The shock of a cancer diagnosis can have deadly consequences, according to a new study that linked the diagnosis to an increased risk of suicide, heart attack and stroke.
The Swedish study followed more than 6 million adult men and women, 786 of whom were diagnosed with various cancers during the 15-year follow-up.
Compared to their cancer-free counterparts, people who were recently diagnosed with cancer had a 12.6 percent higher risk of suicide and a 5.6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death from heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
"Our findings suggest that a cancer diagnosis constitutes a major stressor, one that immediately affects the risk of critical, fatal outcomes," the researchers wrote in their report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The risk of suicide and cardiovascular death was highest the week following a cancer diagnosis and decreased over time.
"What we're really looking at is the psychological stress associated with receiving the news," said study co-author Dr. Murray Mittleman, Director of Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "It can be a very big shock."
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