Scientific News and Reading Suggestion #27

On 1st January 2019 on JAMA Psychiatry it was published the article “Risk of Suicide After Cancer Diagnosis in England”. In the literature it is widely acknowledged that a diagnosis of cancer maybe a risk factor for psychological distress, depression, anxiety and suicide: there are many resources that may be used in order to prevent these events, and all clinicians (not only psychiatrists) should quantify the risk of any patients using prevention strategies. In the study published on JAMA, of the 4 722 099 cancer patients enrolled, 2491 patients died by suicide, representing 0.08% of all deaths during the follow-up period.

The article “Incidence of Suicide in Persons With Cancer” published on the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2008 reported that the incidence of suicide in patients with cancer was approximately twice that of the general US population.

Both articles found that suicide risk was different for different types of cancer (highest among patients with mesothelioma, pancreatic, esophageal, lung and stomach cancer) and that it was highest in the first 6 months following cancer diagnosis. Perhaps, lower quality of life in patients with some kind of cancer may be related to emotional distress; others could have a devastating effect on quality of life through their impact on physical appearance and essential functions such as speech, swallowing, and breathing.

Researchers stress that suicide in cancer patients can be considered as a potentially preventable death cause, and that patients may need psychological support during the first 6 months after cancer diagnosis.

Last, cancer diagnosis potentially involves  end-of-life decisions; there are different studies about this topic; for example, the article “End-of-life decision-making across cancer types: results from a nationwide retrospective survey among treating physicians”, published on the British Journal of Cancer in 2018. This study was about a large random sample of all deaths in Flanders and Belgium in which all cancer deaths were selected (n = 2392): euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide were chosen in 8.7-12.6% of the cases, independent of cancer types.


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