Prostate cancer diagnosis raises risk of suicide
For men, receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer can be anxiety-provoking and upsetting. For some of these men, hearing this information may be so distressing as to trigger thoughts of suicide. This news is from a recent study finding that men are at an elevated risk of suicide following a prostate cancer diagnosis.
“This is especially concerning and disheartening to me as a urologist who deals with men diagnosed with prostate cancer,” exclaimed Dr. David Samadi. “No physician wants to hear that any man would want to take his life after a cancer diagnosis. Men need to know there are many prostate cancer treatment options available that can significantly extend their life and to actually improve the quality of the years they have left.”
The study was a meta-analysis of 8 observational studies that included over 1.2 million men with prostate cancer who were compared to over 800,000 men who did not have prostate cancer. From this analysis, researchers found that men during the first year after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis had an overall 2-fold increased risk of committing suicide. The risk was more pronounced among men older than 75 years of age at diagnosis.
“The study was able to conclude that once a man was past one year of their diagnosis, the risk of suicide was reduced,” explained Dr. Samadi. “It was during the initial weeks and months right after being diagnosed, that were the most risky for men. Apparently, it was the initial shock and probably unexpectedness of hearing this news that escalated contemplation of taking their life.”
Another interesting finding from the study was that 51% of men aged 75 years or older at diagnosis had a higher risk of suicide than men without prostate cancer. Men who were 66 years or younger at the time of their diagnosis of prostate cancer had a lower suicide risk of 37%. It was also noted that men receiving hormonal therapy had a significant 80% increased risk of suicide when compared to men without prostate cancer. For men undergoing curative treatment for prostate cancer, their risk of suicide was much lower at only an 11% increased risk.
“This is not the first study to analyze suicide risk among men diagnosed with prostate cancer,” explained Dr. Samadi. “Past studies have also found this same risk of suicide, particularly within the first few weeks after the diagnosis. These studies are always a wakeup call to me as a urologist. When I have to be the bearer of bad news of delivering a prostate cancer diagnosis to a man, I need to be thinking about the possibility of that man considering suicide as a way out.”
Dr. Samadi went on to explain, “It can be a traumatic experience for anyone to hear they have cancer, similar to post-traumatic stress. For men, feelings of intense anxiety, uncertainty, confusion, helplessness, and fear of losing control over their life, is a lot to deal with. Men normally like to feel and be in control. Physicians need to consider that the cancer diagnosis itself is usually not the sole cause of suicide. There are almost always other factors in a man’s life such as mental illness or financial or relationship stresses that are also at play.”
One of the most important sources of emotional support for men receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis is their physician. Dr Samadi emphasized that physicians who use a compassionate approach based on communication and careful explanation of their condition can help ease worries men will have.
“This is why I am supporter of prostate cancer support groups for men,” stated Dr. Samadi. “Men who have prostate cancer know what men newly diagnosed are going through. The advice and hope they offer is invaluable. No man should ever feel alone as they go through their diagnosis, treatment and recovery.”
Patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can contact world renowned prostate cancer surgeon and urologic oncologist, Dr. David Samadi, for a free phone consultation and to learn more about prostate cancer risk, call 212-365-5000.