Utah Cancer Center study shows patients need mental health treatment

SALT LAKE CITY – New search from the Huntsman Cancer Institute shows the need for more mental health treatment when it comes to patients, especially those who have been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on May 5,” said Gretchen Baldwin, a registered nurse working at Memorial Hospital in Rock Springs, Wyoming. “I wish people would talk about it more. When you think of cancer, you think of people losing their hair or whatever, but going through cancer has really opened my eyes to what you’re really going through.”

She was just out of nursing school and right through the pandemic, going through 12 rounds of chemotherapy over the course of six months at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City, and is now in remission.

“People think, ‘Oh, you’re in remission, you’re not thinking about cancer anymore,’ but no, it’s on my mind every day,” Baldwin said.

She says she gets too anxious when she catches a cold or a simple illness, fearing the cancer will come back.

“It’s such an appropriate response to have stress, anxiety and depression in the face of such an upsetting diagnosis like cancer, even though you’re told it’s a good prognosis. [and] you’re going to do well,” said Dr. Randa Tao of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Tao’s discoveries were recently published in the American Cancer Society Journalsand focus on an increased risk of mental health diagnoses and potential substance abuse later in life for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It’s surprising, but it’s not. It just makes sense,” Tao said.

She says this particular type of cancer is one of the most curable, striking many patients, like Baldwin, when they are young with their whole lives ahead of them.

“There have been so many studies on the physical effects of cancer alone, but no one has explored the topic of psychosocial well-being in mental health, so I think that’s an important first step,” he said. said Tao.

Tao says she hopes it will change the way doctors treat their patients, expanding their care to include the mental health component.

“As physicians, we need to be more aware of this and think about ways to better support patients’ mental health on top of everything we try to do to support their physical health,” she said.

It’s something Baldwin says she’d like to see more of as she goes through her own emotional roller coaster from when she was diagnosed to now after treatments, and as she helps others in her role and with her own wedding, once postponed, is now expected to arrive in just two weeks.

“If I could tell someone going through it, I’d start talking to someone sooner, you know. Get that support sooner rather than later,” she said.

The full study is available here.

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