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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Cancer

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in cancer patients being diagnosed with an “incurable” cancer,  undergoing aggressive therapies like a hematopoitic stem cell transplant and then having to live with painful long-term and late stage side effects is real.

I don’t think my PTSD is anything like what can affect military personnel. I’m just trying to understand and perhaps treat the emotional side effects of:

  • a cancer diagnosis
  • aggressive surgery/chemo/radiation
  • short, long-term and late stage side effects

I am trying to understand this side effect because, as the first paper linked below explains, there are no therapies developed for cancer PTSD.

So when a PTSD therapy is discussed in the third and forth studies below is relevant to me, I want to write about it in PeopleBeatingCancer. Interestingly, if I understand written exposure therapy (WET) correctly, I am practicing this therapy daily when I research and write blog posts about my cancer, multiple myeloma, and my long-term and late stage side effects.

I think it is fair to also say that cancer patients and survivors who also frequently contribute to one or more Facebook groups are also undergoing written exposure therapy.

I have to also list those evidence-based but non-conventional therapies that I practice and believe have helped me manage my anxiety, stress, post-cancer fear, etc. And those therapies are:

  • Moderate daily exercise
  • Cultivating a sense of purpose (peoplebeatingcancer)
  • Nutrition and nutritional supplementation

Keep in mind that I follow the above therapies to keep my bone strong, manage my weight, keep my cancer in remission, etc. etc. In other words, I would be doing these therapies anyway.

To Learn More about cancer and PTSD, please read the posts linked below-

Are you a cancer survivor? Do you think you are experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome? Scroll down the page, post a question or a comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor 
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Cancer-Related Post-Traumatic Stress (PDQ®)–


For a number of years, investigators have reported stress- or trauma-related symptoms such as avoidant behaviors, intrusive thoughts, and heightened arousal in survivors of cancer.[14] These symptoms resemble those seen in individuals who have experienced traumatic events such as:[5]

  • Military combat.
  • Violent personal assault (e.g., rape).
  • Natural disasters.
  • Other threats to life.

Although no specific therapies for PTS symptoms in the cancer setting have been developed, treatment modalities used with other people with PTSD can be useful in alleviating distress in cancer patients and survivors…”

Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Recipients

“Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) is an intensive and potentially curative therapy for patients with hematologic malignancies. Patients admitted for HCT experience a prolonged, isolating hospitalization and endure substantial physical and psychological symptoms…

We used the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Bone Marrow Transplant, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to assess quality of life (QOL) and depression and anxiety symptoms at the time of admission for HCT, week 2 during hospitalization, and 6 months after HCT…

The rate of clinically significant PTSD symptoms at 6 months after HCT was 18.9% (39/206). Participants with clinically significant PTSD symptoms experienced hypervigilance (92.3%), avoidance (92.3%), and intrusion (76.9%) symptoms…

Less Burdensome PTSD Therapy Proves Viable

“A shorter type of exposure therapy worked just as well as a more involved one for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a non-inferiority trial involving military veterans…

Sloan’s group said their findings “add to the evidence that good PTSD treatment outcomes can be achieved with fewer sessions and less exposure to trauma-related stimuli than previously assumed.” They added that the structure of these shorter in-person or virtual written exposure sessions bolstered its accessibility, seeing as how the typical 90-minute prolonged exposure protocol “is not usually feasible in most clinical settings.”

Written Exposure Therapy vs Prolonged Exposure Therapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress DisorderA Randomized Clinical Trial

Question  Is written exposure therapy (WET) noninferior to the more time-intensive prolonged exposure therapy (PE) in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial of 178 veterans diagnosed with PTSD, participants in both treatments improved significantly, with large observed effect sizes. Despite a considerable difference in the number of treatment sessions, WET was noninferior to PE, and treatment retention was significantly better among those who received WET.

Meaning  These findings suggest that WET is a viable option for PTSD treatment and has the potential to reach a greater number of individuals who are in need of PTSD treatment…”

Treatment- Writing exposure therapy includes 5 sessions in which individuals are instructed to write for 30 minutes about a specific index trauma with a focus on the details of the event and the feelings and thoughts that occurred during the event in the earlier sessions (ie, 1-3) and with a focus on how the event has affected their lives in later sessions (ie, 4 and 5)…”


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