Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cancer patients less shy, more panicked

Elderly persons after a cancer diagnosis are less likely to be shy in face to face situations but more likely to panic in crowds or open places, compared to healthy persons. This is the surprising result of a study on cancer and mental disorders in Canada.

More than thirty thousand persons of all ages have been assessed. Major depression, not very surprising, has been associated with cancer in all ages between fifteen and over seventy-five. The same holds true for panic attacks.

But in those older than fifty-five, interestingly, the odds of social phobia (shyness) are by a factor of four lower than in healthy persons. In contrast, the odds of agoraphobia (fear of crowds and open places) are by a factor of six higher than in healthy persons.

Minimize danger and maximize help

Elderly cancer patients are facing a shortening life span which inevitably will change their attitude towards life. The remaining life span may be valued as more precious than before. Therefore, it makes sense to avoid situations that are potentially dangerous. On the other hand, the positive side of social relationships, such as help and support, gain value whereas the fear of getting embarrassed becomes less important.

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