Testicular Cancer Survivors at Increased Risk for Mental Health Distress

February 5, 2021
Brielle Benyon

Survivors of testicular cancer sought out mental health services more often than the general population, according to recent research.

Survivors of testicular cancer are more likely to seek mental health services than their healthy counterparts, highlighting the need for better distress screening in survivorship care plans, according to recent research.

“Testicular cancer programs should consider routine screenings for mental health distress – especially among patients with a baseline mental health history,” the researchers wrote.

Canadian researchers of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology analyzed 2,619 testicular cancer survivors and matched them with 13,095 individuals who never had cancer.

At the start of the study, the two groups had the same rate of mental health service. However, in the peritreatment time period (one month before to one month after orchiectomy) and the post-treatment period (one month after treatment to end of follow-up), those with a history of testicular cancer were significantly more likely to seek an outpatient mental health service.

The study participants were followed for 12 years, and as time went on, testicular cancer survivors grew increasingly more likely to seek mental health services. Testicular cancer survivors are at an increased risk of secondary illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary (lung) toxicities, liver issues, neurotoxicity, and decreased fertility. These factors could lead to distress.

“Such persistence of mental health needs beyond the time of the diagnosis or immediate treatment (i.e., orchiectomy) suggest that the mental health concerns experienced by testicular cancer survivors are not restricted to time-limited mental health disturbances,” the authors wrote. “This also highlights that the long-term and late-effect complications of testicular cancer diagnosis and treatment extend well beyond the five-year period during which early-stage patients are typically followed by their cancer care providers.”

Baseline mental health service use and additional testicular cancer treatments were both correlated with an increase in mental health service use, and the majority of patients sought out mental health help through their primary care physicians.

However, the researchers did mention that, “A key question that remains unaddressed by our study is whether those who undergo adjuvant treatment for stage 1 disease have less anxiety than those who are followed with surveillance.”

Understanding the late effects of testicular cancer and its treatments are extremely important, as it is the most common solid cancer in males between the ages of 15 to 44, and is also the most curable solid malignancy. In turn, there is a growing number of long-term survivors of the disease.

“Accordingly, there has been an increased emphasis on understanding the long-term and late-effect treatment complications affecting testicular cancer survivors,” the researchers wrote.

Considering these findings, survivors should seek to better understand the potential mental health effects of testicular cancer, and maintain open lines of communications with their healthcare teams.

“Efforts to increase awareness of mental health consequences and ensure that appropriate resources and supports are in place beyond the acute phase of diagnosis and treatment to support the long-term mental health of testicular cancer survivors are warranted,” the researchers wrote.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.