Mental illness increased in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma

Nicole Mobley and her family. Photo credit: Huntsman Cancer Institute

Patients with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) suffer from mental disorders and substance abuse more frequently than the general population. A study published on August 2 calls for more attention to mental health Cancer by researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (U of U) found that people with the disease had a higher risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicide and self-inflicted injuries.

“Now we need to figure out how best to help them,” says lead investigator Randa Tao, MD, a radiation oncology specialist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. “We need to think about mental illness with the same awareness and concern that we think about the physical side effects of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. Psychosocial well-being needs to be recognized as an important component of cancer survival, and more research is needed to support short- and long-term mental health in cancer patients.”

Tao’s interest in the topic was sparked after his colleague and co-author Shane Lloyd, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the U of U School of Medicine, reviewed the mental health implications of colorectal cancer survivors and had found that there was an increased risk of being diagnosed with a mental disorder following cancer. Mia Hashibe, Ph.D., a researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, is the lead author on the study

Tao wondered if this carries over to HL, which attacks the immune system and is most prevalent in 15-39 year olds. Known as a highly curable, long-surviving cancer, HL primarily affects young people going through major life events and transitions, such as For example, going to college, starting a career, and starting a family. According to the National Cancer Institute, deaths from HL have fallen dramatically over the past 50 years, more than from any other malignancy. Experts say that more than 75% of all newly diagnosed patients can be cured with chemotherapy and radiation. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 8,540 new cases of HL in the country this year.

“A cancer diagnosis is understandably distressing for anyone, but it can be particularly distressing for HL patients, who are often young and otherwise healthy,” says Tao.

25-year-old Nicole Mobley was diagnosed with HL in January 2021 during COVID. “I felt depressed when I started experiencing physical symptoms like hair loss. That hit me the hardest. It was a struggle,” says Mobley. “It’s okay to be angry and sad. But how you get out of it is crucial.” She says spending time with her husband, dogs, and family has helped her recover mentally and emotionally from a major depression.

For the study, researchers identified patients diagnosed with HL between 1997 and 2014 from the Utah Cancer Registry. A total of 795 patients with HL were matched to 3,575 individuals from the general population within the Utah Population Database, a source of linked records that includes patient and demographic data.

Anxiety and depression were the most common disorders, with substance abuse ranking third.

To collect data, the researchers considered long-term mental health effects and risk factors for developing disorders to determine that such disorders can shorten patients’ lives. In patients with HL, the 10-year survival rate was 70% for those with a psychiatric diagnosis compared to 86% for those without a diagnosis.

The main risk factor associated with a diagnosis of a mental disorder was hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, a treatment in which the bone marrow is replaced with healthy cells. The replacement cells can either come from your own body or from a donor. The therapy process can be grueling with lengthy hospital stays.

Previous studies of HL patients have documented that they are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, recurrence of malignancy, and other quality of life changes resulting from their diagnosis and treatment, including fatigue and nausea. However, not much was known about her mental well-being. “Future studies are needed to understand the causes of these mental health disorders and to discover possible interventions to improve mental health in patients with HL,” Tao adds.

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More information:
Randa Tao et al., Mental health disorders are more common in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and may negatively impact overall survival, Cancer (2022). DOI: 10.1002/cncr.34359

Provided by the Huntsman Cancer Institute

Citation: Elevated Mental Illness in Patients With Hodgkin Lymphoma (2022, August 15) Retrieved August 15, 2022 from

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