Cancers Pose Significant Risk for Acute Stress, PTSD. (Different Findings)

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE -- Patients with newly diagnosed cancer are at significant risk for acute stress disorder and later posttraumatic stress disorder, Maria Kangas, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Dr. Kangas and her associates looked at the incidence of acute stress disorder (ASD) in a group of 82 patients with newly diagnosed head and neck or lung cancer. Patients were assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders. Interviews took place 20 days after their diagnosis and 7 days before the start of treatment.

Twenty-three (28%) of the patients met the DSM-IV criteria for ASD. Those most likely to have ASD were young, female, perceived themselves as having poor social support, showed avoidance symptoms, and had a psychiatric diagnosis before their cancer was detected. Patients with ASD were more likely than those without the diagnosis to have a history of a prior major depression, anxiety disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) not related to cancer.

Axis I diagnosis was common among these patients. At the time of their cancer diagnosis, 33 (40%) of the patients met the DSM-IV criteria for major depression and/or an anxiety disorder.

Six months later, the investigators assessed 63 of the original 82 patients; two-thirds of the other 19 patients had either died or were too sick to participate. Fourteen (22%) met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. Nine (64%) of the patients with PTSD at 6 months also met the criteria for major depressive disorder.

Dr. Kangas noted that her data shed some light on the course of ASD. More than half of the patients with ASD developed PTSD 6 months later; 11% of those with ASD did not meet the diagnostic criteria 6 months later. …