Cancer sufferers battle anxieties

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2006, 12:00am

Patients likely to fall victim to range of mood disorders

Cancer sufferers are 11/2 times more likely to fall victim to mood disorders, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.

The study found 26.7 per cent of sufferers also developed psychological disorders, compared with a general average of 17.6 per cent.

Almost 3,600 adult cancer patients in seven hospitals and 14 support groups were questioned between October and January for the study, headed by Lee Sing, who directs the mood disorder centre at Chinese University.

The findings were determined by asking patients whether they had experienced four or more physical or psychological problems within a month.

Large numbers of patients with mood disorders reported feelings of irritability (48 per cent), worry (46 per cent), insomnia (59 per cent), fatigue (80 per cent) and muscle tension (49 per cent).

Suicidal thoughts were reported by a further 12.9 per cent - six times higher than among the general public.

The highest rate of anxiety - 44 per cent - was found among patients receiving palliative care, while 32 per cent of those under treatment displayed the same symptoms.

There was no significant difference reported between males and females, or between those being treated in private or public hospitals.

Cecilia Chan, director of the centre on behavioural health at the University of Hong Kong, said chronic anxiety and distress might result in the suppression of immunity and subsequently lead to further deterioration in the health of patients.

Social worker Venus Cheng, a programme manager at one of the treatment centres of the Hong Kong Cancer Fund, said patients should talk about their feelings to friends and family and not keep their troubles to themselves.

'They can also help themselves by learning more about their condition and speaking to survivors.' she said. 'A network of peers will enable new cases to build confidence by having a cancer survivor as a role model.'