Memorial Sloan-Kettering psychiatrist Matthew Doolittle says that up to 20 percent of cancer patients develop post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that can cause feelings such as fear or helplessness. Avoiding situations that may trigger a traumatic response can interfere with a patient’s adherence to treatment and follow-up. Other symptoms, such as sleeplessness and irritability, can have an impact on a patient’s quality of life and ability to function on the job and at home.
Patients who have experienced a previous traumatic event are more likely to develop PTSD. Those who are younger, have a more advanced cancer, or have a history of depression also have a higher risk of PTSD. Seeking support from friends and family, finding a doctor you trust, and getting accurate information in a timely manner can help to reduce anxiety.