In a new analysis of 2017 data from the National Health Survey of Spain published in Psycho-Oncology, researchers find that comorbidities increase cancer patients’ psychological distress. This finding suggests the need to consider physical stressors as significant factors of influence when taking steps to manage the mental health of cancer patients.
The field of psycho-oncology deals with the psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of cancer and investigates how patients respond psychologically to cancer at all stages of the disease, as well as how patients’ psychological responses influence the disease process. These are all identified and explained in various psychological courses that help with research in the space.
The analysis conducted looked at 484 cancer patients and 484 matched controls without a history of cancer. The results showed that patients with cancer reported more physical comorbidities (such as chronic back pain, asthma, chronic bronchitis, urinary incontinence, prostate problems, and kidney problems) than the control participants. Cancer patients also reported higher psychological distress and were more likely to have consulted a mental healthcare professional in the past year.
Dafina Petrova, Ph.D., from the Andalusian School of Public Health in Spain, comments:
"Comorbidities often influence the choice and management of cancer treatment. These results suggest that they could also be important for patients' mental health in the months following diagnosis," explains the first author of the study.
Interestingly, the analysis concluded that for every additional physical comorbidity, the likelihood of high psychological stress in cancer patients jumped by 9%. Each additional comorbidity also was associated with a 21% higher chance that a cancer patient would have consulted a mental healthcare professional. This study shows the need for further investigation into the link between physical and mental health.