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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Prostate Cancer Patients Considering Suicide May Find Help in New Concept

Patients who have these negative thoughts before surgery are more likely to have a lower perceived quality of life 3 months afterwards

Oct. 31, 2011 - Men with prostate cancer are twice as likely to commit suicide, but a method where they put intrusive thoughts into words may reduce this risk, reveals research at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The researchers surveyed the thoughts of 833 Swedish men before and after surgery for prostate cancer. The suicide rate in this group is high, and the aim of the study was to map the men's thoughts.

One in four thought about death

"Our results show that 73% of the men had sudden involuntary negative intrusive thoughts about their cancer at some point before surgery, and almost 60% still had these thoughts three months after surgery," says Thordis Thorsteinsdottir, in whose thesis the results are reported.

"One in four thought about their own death at least once a week."

 

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Lower perceived quality of life

Her thesis shows that men who do not expect to be cured by the treatment have negative intrusive thoughts more often. "Men who often think these thoughts about their prostate cancer before surgery are more likely to have low or moderate perceived quality of life three months afterwards," says Thorsteinsdottir.

New method can reduce intrusive thoughts

Her thesis discusses a method which can reduce these intrusive thoughts. Known as expressive writing, the method has been tested on other cancer patients with good results and involves getting the men affected to spend 20 minutes writing down their feelings on at least three occasions after getting their cancer diagnosis.

Easier to talk

The idea is that this helps the men to put their intrusive thoughts into words. It is then easier to talk to friends and family, which reduces their negative thoughts and so improves their mental health.

"Health professionals could be better at communicating with men who have had a cancer diagnosis," says Thorsteinsdottir.

"If every man was asked 'What do you think about your cancer and your future?' and we then took the time to listen, we might be in a better position to help them handle this new situation and prevent drastic actions such as suicide."

Covers 4,000 men

The thesis is the first from a study which, once data collection is complete, will cover 4,000 men with prostate cancer from 13 urology clinics in Sweden. The study is being led by Eva Haglind from the Sahlgrenska Academy.

Prostate cancer leading cancer in Sweden

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in Sweden. Each year more than 2,500 men die from the disease and more than 9,000 receive the diagnosis. Long after the diagnosis, men with prostate-cancer diagnosis more often have a post-traumatic stress syndrome, with negative intrusive thoughts about the disease which cause problems sleeping and anxiety.

Older Survey

Prostate Cancer Diagnosis May Bring Suicide, Heart Risks

By Joseph Brownstein, ABC News Medical Unit

Dec. 15, 2009 - Prostate cancer may not be as deadly as it once was, likely because of advances in screening and treatment, but a new study suggests that even a diagnosis of the disease carries some risks.

A collaboration including researchers from Harvard University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at data for more than 4 million men in Sweden above the age of 30 and found that the diagnosis of prostate cancer -- something that occurred in over 160,000 of those men -- increased the relative risks for fatal heart problems 11 times and suicide by eight times in the week after diagnosis.

"Stress can be an important trigger for physiologic reactions, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The diagnosis of cancer also can cause high enough stress to see a noticeable increase in both heart disease and suicide."

Given that suicide is generally rare, the study does not suggest that men commit it in great numbers following a prostate cancer diagnosis, but doctors say it does suggest a need for more careful monitoring and communication with patients following a diagnosis.

Among men who have removal of the prostate, some men are left impotent permanently, while others have to deal with incontinence. He said others must take hormonal treatments when surgery fails to remove the tumor completely from the prostate, and the absence of testosterone can lead to impotence and a lack of libido.

MacDonald said a man who is 50 years old and is diagnosed with prostate cancer, then left without a libido by the surgery can be heavily affected by the change in sexual function.

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