Suicide Among Genitourinary Cancer Patients
A vast majority of patients suffering from cancer experience severe depression. Numerous studies have suggested that the suicide rate in patients suffering from cancer is almost twice the suicide rate in the general population. It has been found that while treating patients suffering from life-threatening diseases such as cancer, physicians often focus on the physical effects of the disease and tend to ignore the psychosocial well-being of the patient. The suicide risk factor in genitourinary patients is high and therefore a study was conducted recently to understand the risk factors.
As per a recent study published on February 17, 2015, in the journal Cancer, it has been found that suicide is a major health concern in patients who are suffering from genitourinary cancer, specifically bladder cancer. A team of researchers led by Zachary Klaassen, M.D, from the Medical College of Georgia-Georgia Regents University in Augusta, studied a database of patients with bladder, prostate, testis, kidney, and penile cancer. The database was taken from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. The variables that were examined included age, race, sex, and disease and treatment aggressiveness.
The key observations of the study are listed below:
- The study found that about 2,268 patients committed suicide out of a total of 1,239,522 patients with genitourinary cancer.
- It was found that the bladder cancer patients had the highest risk of suicide in comparison to patients with other forms of genitourinary cancer.
- The risk of suicide was higher in older patients with bladder, testis, and prostate cancer. It was found that with an increase in age, the risk of suicide in patients with genitourinary patients was higher.
- Another important finding of the study is that older, white patients suffering from genitourinary cancer are more likely to commit suicide than the African-Americans. The chances of suicide in genitourinary cancer patients in African-Americans in comparison to white patients are .26 to .46.
- Specifically in the black population, the patients suffering from bladder cancer were at the highest risk of suicide.
- Patients suffering from prostate cancer exhibited an increase in the rate of suicide over a period of time, with the highest rate being exhibited around 15 years from the diagnosis.
Important Suicide Risk Factors To Be Kept In Mind
The doctors treating genitourinary cancer patients should keep the suicide risk factors in mind. Depression, anxiety, and fear often drive cancer patients to suicide. Distressing physical symptoms, such as uncontrolled pain, loss of control, hopelessness, and helplessness can increase the risk of suicide in cancer patients.
How to Deal With High Suicide Risk Patients
Patients suffering from genitourinary cancer should be advised a comprehensive care plan comprising primary care physician, as well as a psychiatrist so that the patients not only get medication but also behavioral and psychosocial therapy. Depression care intervention in addition to the medical care can help in reducing the rate of suicide in genitourinary cancer patients.
Common symptoms of depression which cancer patients exhibit include weight changes, forgetfulness, and fatigue. It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by cancer and its treatment. Therefore, it is best advised to seek the intervention of a psychiatrist who can work out an effective depression care program.
- “Factors associated with suicide in patients with genitourinary malignancies,” by Zachary Klaassen MD, et al. Published in February 17, 2015, edition of Cancer, accessed on 28 March 2015. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cncr.29274