Factors That Affect the Risk of Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress (PTS)
Key Points for This Section
- Certain factors may make it more likely that a patient will have post-traumatic stress.
- Certain protective factors may make it less likely that a patient will develop post-traumatic stress.
- Symptoms of cancer-related post-traumatic stress may be triggered when certain smells, sounds, and sights are linked with chemotherapy or other treatments.
Certain factors may make it more likely that a patient will have post-traumatic stress.
It is not completely clear who has an increased risk of cancer-related post-traumatic stress. Certain physical and mental factors that are linked to PTS or PTSD have been reported in some studies:
- Cancer that recurs (comes back) was shown to increase stress symptoms in patients.
- Breast cancer survivors who had more advanced cancer or lengthy surgeries, or a history of trauma or anxiety disorders, were more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD.
- In survivors of childhood cancer, symptoms of post-traumatic stress occurred more often when there was a longer treatment time. See the PDQ summary on Pediatric Supportive Care for more information.
Psychological, mental and social factors
- Previous trauma.
- High level of general stress.
- Genetic factors and biological factors (such as a hormone disorder) that affect memory and learning.
- The amount of social support available.
- Threat to life and body.
- Having PTSD or other psychological problems before being diagnosed with cancer.
- The use of avoidance to cope with stress.
Certain protective factors may make it less likely that a patient will develop post-traumatic stress.
Cancer patients may have a lower risk of post-traumatic stress if they have the following:
Symptoms of cancer-related post-traumatic stress may be triggered when certain smells, sounds, and sights are linked with chemotherapy or other treatments.
Post-traumatic stress symptoms develop by conditioning.
Conditioning occurs when certain triggers become linked with an upsetting event. Neutral triggers (such as smells, sounds, and sights) that occurred at the same time as upsetting triggers (such as chemotherapy or painful treatments) later cause anxiety, stress, and fear even when they occur alone, after the trauma has ended.