Anxiety Leads to More Aggressive Cancer Treatment Choices…but Necessarily the Best Ones

cancer-389921_640 (1)When someone is diagnosed with cancer, regardless of how treatable it may be, they experience intense emotions. Even the calmest of men can find themselves in a pool of anxiety. The consequences of that distress recently became the basis of a study done by Heather Orom of the University at Buffalo. It was published in the February issue of Journal of Urology.

For years, oncologists and other doctors have been struggling to help people make the most informed decisions regarding their cancer treatments. It is understandable that men diagnosed with even highly treatable prostate cancer will opt for the most aggressive treatment, such as surgery, to rid themselves of it. However, some doctors fear that this could negatively affect a patient’s quality of life.

Orom states, “If distress early on is influencing treatment choices, then maybe we can help men by providing clearer information about their prognosis and strategies for dealing with anxiety.”

The study evaluated 1,531 men newly diagnosed with clinically localized prostate cancer. In other words, the disease had not metastasized. Their emotional levels were checked twice—after diagnosis and after making a treatment decision. Anxiety about cancer influenced them greatly. 48% of the men chose to have immediate surgery. 27% opted for radiation, and 24% decided for active surveillance. Even when men had low-risk prostate cancer, many of them opted for surgery or radiation rather than active surveillance. The risks of doing so when the cancer is localized, however, included side effects like erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

What does that mean for men over 40? Since men are more at risk for prostate cancer at this time, those who are not well-informed about the treatment options — or what the side-effects of the more aggressive treatments could be — may wind up making a decision they will regret later on.

Willie Underwood III, a co-author of the article and a member of the Roswell Park’s Department of Urology, commented, “It is helpful for physicians to better understand what is motivating men’s decisions and to address negative motivators such as emotional distress to prevent men from receiving a treatment that they [do not] need or will later regret.”

If you interested about the research and how the data was gathered, you can read the abstract or entire article in the February 2017 Journal of Urology. Alternatively, you can read the summary provided by Science Daily for more information.