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CMAJ. 1995 Mar 1;152(5):701-8.

Psychiatric illness and psychosocial concerns of patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer.

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Department of Psychiatry, Queen's University, Kingston, Ont.



To determine the nature and incidence of psychiatric illness, symptoms of potential psychiatric significance, substance abuse and psychosocial concerns among patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer.


Case series.


Kingston Regional Cancer Centre, a tertiary care facility for ambulatory cancer patients.


Seventy-one consecutive English-speaking patients with recently diagnosed lung cancer undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy were asked to participate; 52 of the 57 patients who agreed were available for evaluation.


Current and previous psychiatric diagnoses of affective, anxiety and adjustment disorders, and alcohol and tobacco abuse; symptoms of sadness, fear, shock, anger, denial, acceptance, guilt, suicidal ideation, thoughts of death, insomnia, loss of libido, impaired concentration and reduced level of work or interest; psychosocial concerns about family, work and finances; and an impression of coping.


At the time of the interview two (4%) of the patients were found to have an affective disorder, none had an anxiety disorder, and six (12%) had an adjustment disorder. Previously, 16 patients (31%) had had an affective or anxiety disorder or both. Two (4%) had had an adjustment disorder following the diagnosis of their lung cancer that had resolved before the interview. At some point in their lives 24 patients (46%) had abused alcohol, and 7 (13%) were currently abusing alcohol. All had smoked, 33 (63%) having been tobacco dependent. Feelings of sadness were expressed by 23 (44%), fear by 15 (29%), anger by 2 (4%), shock by 9 (17%) and guilt by 4 (8%). Seven (13%) had considered suicide, and thoughts of death were reported by 16 (31%). Twenty (38%) were accepting of their diagnosis, and 5 (10%) expressed optimism. Twenty-seven (52%) had insomnia, which was reported to be severe by 15 (29%). Loss of libido was reported by 25 (48%) and was severe in 14 (27%). Difficulty concentrating was reported by 10 (19%) and a reduced ability to work or loss of interest by 17 (33%). Fifteen patients (29%) were concerned about their families and 4 (8%) about work or finances. Most (41 [79%]) had good family support, and 23 (44%) found support in religion. Seven patients (13%) seemed to be coping poorly.


Although psychiatric illness was infrequent, symptoms of potential psychiatric significance and psychosocial concerns were common in this patient population. Attention to these symptoms and concerns should be addressed in a systematic and effective way by all health care professionals and agencies planning the care of patients with lung cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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