Cancer survivors who have lived at least five years past their diagnosis are more than twice as likely to say their lives are extremely stressful than people who never had cancer. They report psychological stress that is severe enough to cause problems functioning at work, in school, or in social situations.
Survivors under 65 were more likely to have serious stress compared to those over 65. The number of years since cancer diagnosis made no difference in the risk of stress.
Survivors who were not married or living with a partner, had less than a high school education, were uninsured, or who smoked currently or in the past reported stress most often. People who had trouble with routine daily activities were also at higher risk for stress.
Results of interviews conducted during the National Health Information Survey were presented on October 24, 2008 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Boston. Nearly 127,000 people without cancer and 4,700 long-term cancer survivors were surveyed. Most survivors had breast, gynecological, urological, or colorectal cancer. Average age at diagnosis was 47, and the average age at interview was 62.
Karen Hoffman, MD, lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said
We hope these findings will raise awareness of the psychosocial needs of long-term cancer survivors and encourage routine psychological screening of these survivors. Quick, low-cost psychological screening tests are available that can and should be performed during clinic visits.
The National Health Interview Survey is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control each year. Interviewers from the National Health Interview Survey visit a statistically selected sample of US households asking questions about health and access to health care.