Lung cancer patients know hope is crucial. Now, there’s science to back them up.

Lung cancer patients say hope is crucial component of care

Patients living with lung cancer must find the right doctor… make an informed decision about the right course of treatment … and, more than ever, battle with their insurance company to get approval.

With all these issues, it’s easy to forget about the importance of a patient’s mental and emotional outlook.

“I believe hope is crucial,” Jeff Julian, who was first diagnosed with lung cancer at 39 years old, shared at our Voices of Value event in St. Louis. “To be looked at like you are a foregone conclusion, to be looked at like ‘we’re going to do the standard of care because that’s what I’ve been told to tell you,’ that doesn’t give me much hope.”

“I am a firm believer in having a positive attitude. It makes a lot of difference,” patient advocate Karen Loss tells fellow lung cancer patients. “I am living with lung cancer. I am not dying from it.”

We emphasize the enduring importance of the patient’s voice because insights from Karen and Jeff address the neglected concerns in health care and highlight where we need to place our priorities.

And now, there’s even scientific data to back it up.

Anxiety, depression undermine survival rates for lung cancer patients

New data shows that anxiety and depression are undermining survival rates for patients with advanced lung cancer.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and BC Cancer Agency examined the effects of anxiety and depression on 684 patients diagnosed with stage three non-small cell lung cancer. According to a new study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, they found that patients suffering from anxiety and depression following diagnosis have a shorter life expectancy.

“The question of whether anxiety and depression affect survival in cancer patients has been of interest to scientists for decades, but long-term research has been limited,” said Andrea Vodermaier, the study’s lead author. “Our study confirms that there is indeed a link for lung cancer patients, and that it’s important for health-care providers to treat not only their tumour but also focus on the full emotional experience of the patient.”

When you take away hope, you undermine a patient’s health.

What Patients Can Do to Fight Depression

What can patients do to fight depression and overcome anxiety?

New York therapist Rachel Roos Pokorney has produced an innovative one-page primer based on recommendations from the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Understandably, cancer treatment is primarily focused on obtaining medical remission,” she told Reuters Health. “There is still an unfortunate lack of awareness about the importance of treating the mental along with the physical, both in general and in regards to cancer patients.”

Here are a few recommendations, including those from Pokorney’s primer at the JAMA Oncology Patient Page:

  • Get active, eat a balanced diet and build a healthy support network.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether a medication can help you manage depression symptoms.
  • Find a support group, clinical therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist to help you cope with cancer-related depression.
  • Become a patient advocate that helps other patients get the right treatment.

Most importantly: take action. Your mental health is connected to your treatment.

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