Better anxiety screening and follow-up needed for long-term cancer survivors

New research published in The Lancet Oncology highlights the need to screen for anxiety, in addition to depression, among cancer survivors and their spouses.

Researchers from Leicester General Hospital, in the United Kingdom, found that two years after diagnosis cancer survivors were 27 percent more likely to develop anxiety than individuals with no history of cancer. Ten years or more after diagnosis, the risk increases to a 50 percent likelihood.

Depression, on the other hand, was not more likely.

Survivors and their spouses did not differ significantly in terms of depression, but spouses often had higher levels of anxiety.

Lead author Alex Mitchell said:

“Our results suggest that, after a cancer diagnosis, increased rates of anxiety tend to persist in both patients and their relatives. … Further, the provision of rehabilitation and specialist emotional help is currently patchy. Efforts should be made to improve screening for anxiety and increase follow-up support for both survivors and their families.”

The findings are based on a meta-analysis and systematic review of 43 studies on the prevalence of depression and anxiety in adults with cancer two or more years after diagnosis. These studies included a combined total of more than 500,000 participants.