What … you’re afraid your cancer might recur? What a surprise!


There is some scientific literature that gets presented and published that makes one wonder, seriously, what is going on in the minds of the researchers — let alone in the minds of the people who agree to fund such research.

An article just presented at the ongoing Third Forum of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) in Barcelona, Spain apparently told attendees that:

Up to 13 percent of cancer survivors experience moderate-to-severe fear of their disease recurring, regardless of their prognosis or time since diagnosis.

Now it is hard to know what the researchers define as “moderate-to-severe” fear of cancer recurrence. Does that mean the patients worry about it every day or once every week or what? There is nothing in the Medscape report on this presentation that provides any clarity about how this was being defined or assessed. However, it is probably pretty safe to say that nearly every cancer survivor has some level of anxiety that their cancer may recur, and in all honesty, The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink would be amazed if, overall, a moderate degree of that fear and anxiety didn’t significantly exceed 13 percent.

In the case of prostate cancer survivors, we know that there is an increase in the anxiety level of almost every patient we have ever heard from each time they have to go back for a post-treatment PSA test to ensure that they are still in full remission.

While it is certainly very important for those patients with a high fear or anxiety level about recurrence to have appropriate access to psychiatric or psychological counseling services, and support in addressing such fears, it would seem to us that the vast majority of cancer specialists and primary care physicians are well aware that:

  • The potential for cancer recurrence weighs on the minds of all cancer survivors (to a greater or a lesser extent)
  • There is a subset of those patients for whom this issue can induce very high levels of stress and worry

The value of the above-mentioned research therefore appears extremely dubious to us. The far more important question is, are such patients being appropriately identified, and  exactly what services are or should be available to them to assist them with this problem. That would be true whether it was 2 percent or 40 percent of all cancer survivors.

And the fact that there are such people is not surprising either — especially when one considers just how much time the news media spends on talking about cancer and its management.

3 Responses

  1. As the sitemaster states in the title of this article, “What a surprise!” I could not agree more with the comment about what were the researchers thinking and who are the fools funding this? This was the very basis of my comments on previous articles posted here where researchers were studying the side effects of RRP and whether or not there was a loss of quality of life with prostate cancer survivors. Duh!

    What a waste of time and money researching what everybody already knows. My guess is the same people that produced this article also produced the studies of side effects of prostate cancer.

    Signed,

    Mr. Obvious

  2. I am happy to inform you that your blog has made Healthline’s list of the Best Prostate Blogs of 2015! Healthline’s editors carefully selected each winner based on quality, frequency of updates and contribution to the community. You can see the full list
    here
    . …

    Thank you again for providing a great resource to the Prostate community! …

    Best,

    Nicole Lascurain

  3. Sir, I would not be so fast in dismissing the importance of this study. Based on my personal experience, it cannot be assumed that primary care physicians or cancer specialists are aware of the psychic stress caused by cancer. Now there is an evidence-based (as distinguished from empathy-based) reason for them to consider this in their practices.

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