Patients With Testicular Cancer ‘Should Not Shy Away’ from Seeking Mental Health Services

Study findings showed that anxiety and depression may not decrease over time in patients with testicular cancer, emphasizing the importance of discussing symptoms with cancer teams.

Anxiety and depression may not significantly change over time in patients with testicular cancer, highlighting the importance of mental health awareness and management, according to recent study findings.

Dr. Khalid Y. Alkhatib, a postdoctoral faculty member at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, told CURE® that an increase in anxiety and depression may be due to when patients with testicular cancer are often diagnosed and treated.

“Testicular cancer patients are young,” he said. “They usually develop the disease at an essential period of their life socially and professionally (the time when they start dating, being at college or starting professional life). This can have a profound impact on their lives.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of men diagnosed with testicular cancer is 33 years old.

“While it is not surprising that (a) cancer diagnosis brings a heavy burden on patients, the young age of testicular cancer patients makes them highly vulnerable to pathological anxiety and depression, which can have a catastrophic effect on their life course,” Alkhatib said.

He and his colleagues conducted a study, which was presented as a poster at the Society of Urologic Oncology Annual Meeting. Researchers used quality-of-life data from 353 patients and survivors with testicular cancer over a five-year period after the completion of their primary treatment. These data included surveys assessing anxiety and depression.

Study results demonstrated that neither anxiety nor depression scores seemed to change over time based on the type of treatment they received.

“This is an important finding because the notion of some treatments that are associated (with a) higher risk of recurrence is perhaps linked to pathological depression or anxiety,” Alkhatib said. “Moreover, chemotherapy, which is well known to be associated with long-term side effects that include neurotoxicity, was also suggested to be linked to long-term psychological effects such as anxiety or depression.”

These data suggest that early psychiatric intervention is essential in these patients.

“The first essential step is to seek professional help and talk to your care provider,” he said. “Depending on the level or status of anxiety or depression, there are many ways that can be used to cope with such conditions; (this spans) from behavioral life modifications up to pharmacological interventions.”

Alkhatib advised patients with testicular cancer that there are ways to manage and improve these symptoms.

“While this is a whole topic to talk about, the most critical message for cancer patients to know is that there are many ways to help them get better,” he said. “Therefore, they should not shy away if they think they need help.”

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