Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Younger Cancer Patients Report More Distress

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Younger Cancer Patients Report More Distress

Article excerpt

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Compared with older cancer patients, younger adults battling the disease reported more pain, more severe pain, and more distress on almost every psychological variable measured by researchers at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

The findings were notable because older patients, defined as those over age 55, were more likely than their younger counterparts to have stage IV disease (56.8% vs. 36.7%) and be receiving palliative care rather than active treatment (63.3% vs. 37.8%) in the 232-patient study.

Patients ranged in age from 21 to 84 years, and participated in the study a mean 3.2 years following diagnosis. About half of the patients, 49%, were younger than 55 years. The most common diagnoses were lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Significant differences were seen in younger and older patients' reports of pain (82.5% vs. 73.9%, respectively), pain severity on a 0- to 10-point Likert scale (2.63 vs. 2.30), and distress associated with their pain, according to scores on the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (2.82 vs. 2.35).

Significantly more young adults reported problems with sleep difficulties, sadness, worry, irritability, and sexual concerns, reported Jessica Krok, a doctoral candidate in the university's School of Aging Studies, during a podium session at the conference.

Difficulty sleeping and worrying were especially common, being reported by 62.8% and 60.2% of young adult cancer patients surveyed, respectively. These were concerns of 47.9% and 42.9% of older adult patients. A highly significant difference was seen in patients reporting that they felt irritable: 54% of younger adults, compared with 35% of older adults with the disease.

Numerically, younger patients were more likely to report difficulty concentrating and feeling nervous, although differences in those categories did not reach significance.

The only psychological variable reported more by older than younger patients was the statement, "I don't look like myself," which was answered affirmatively by 48.7% of older patients and 43.4% of younger patients; again, the difference was not significant.

Ms. Krok emphasized that pain was a problem for 78% of all patients in the study. After controlling for psychological variables, she and her colleagues found that women, unmarried patients, less religiously active patients, and those reporting sleep disturbances reported higher pain severity.

When only younger patients' responses were analyzed, age was still significantly correlated with pain severity, again with the youngest patients reporting higher levels of pain. …

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