Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER
  • View entire document
  • Print
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress (PDQ®)

Factors That Affect the Risk of Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress (PTS)

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:

Physical factors

Psychological, mental and social factors

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:

  • Good social support.
  • Clear information about the stage of their cancer.
  • An open relationship with their healthcare providers.

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.

  • Updated: March 13, 2015