The results are based on a survey of 833 men admitted to 12 different urology clinics, corresponding to 86% of all eligible men operated on at these centers between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009. The men were asked questions about their mental health before and three months after surgery.
One in four thought about death
“Our results show that 73% of the men had sudden involuntary negative intrusive thoughts about their cancer at some point before surgery, and almost 60% still had these thoughts three months after surgery,” says Thordis Thorsteinsdottir, in whose thesis the results are reported. “One in four thought about their own death at least once a week.”
Lower perceived quality of life
Her thesis shows that men who do not expect to be cured by the treatment have negative intrusive thoughts more often.
“Men who often think these thoughts about their prostate cancer before surgery are more likely to have low or moderate perceived quality of life three months afterwards,” says Thorsteinsdottir.
New method can reduce intrusive thoughts
Her thesis discusses a method which can reduce these intrusive thoughts. Known as expressive writing, the method has been tested on other cancer patients with good results and involves getting the men affected to spend 20 minutes writing down their feelings on at least three occasions after getting their cancer diagnosis.
Easier to talk
The idea is that this helps the men to put their intrusive thoughts into words. It is then easier to talk to friends and family, which reduces their negative thoughts and so improves their mental health.
“Health professionals could be better at communicating with men who have had a cancer diagnosis,” says Thorsteinsdottir. “If every man was asked ‘What do you think about your cancer and your future?’ and we then took the time to listen, we might be in a better position to help them handle this new situation and prevent drastic actions such as suicide.”
Covers 4,000 men
The thesis is the first from a study which, once data collection is complete, will cover 4,000 men with prostate cancer from 13 urology clinics in Sweden. The study is being led by Eva Haglind from the Sahlgrenska Academy.
The thesis has been successfully defended.
Material adapted from University of Gothenburg.