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Study links distress in prostate cancer patients to certain personality traits

A study led by the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute has identified beliefs and personality traits that are associated with higher levels of distress in newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients.

The findings support the value of support for patients and perhaps early counseling for the most distressed.

Factors associated with greater distress included a lack of confidence in deciding how to treat the cancer; being concerned that the cancer will progress; feeling that one’s masculinity was under threat; and tendencies to be less optimistic and resilient.

“There are several studies that have examined distress in prostate cancer patients after treatment, but few that assessed distress in men early in diagnosis, before receiving treatment,” said Heather Orom, lead author and an assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. “Our study provides a stronger empirical basis for designing or selecting interventions for these men.”

Results of “Factors Associated with Emotional Distress in Newly Diagnosed Prostate Cancer Patients,” are from a larger longitudinal study of prostate cancer patients, “Live Well Live Long!” The research was based on assessments of 1,425 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer at five different centers.

“To provide the correct support, we need a better understanding of what causes distress in these types of patients,” Dr. Willie Underwood III, associate professor in the Department of Urology at Roswell Park, served as principal investigator on the study.

“As urologists, we have to find better ways to assist men and their families after a prostate cancer diagnosis, which can be a difficult time for many. This study brings us one step closer to doing so,” Underwood said in a news release.

A second set of analyses from the same study revealed that emotional distress may motivate men diagnosed with prostate cancer to choose surgery.

“Importantly, greater distress was associated with choosing more aggressive treatment in men with lower-risk disease among those with potentially low-risk cancer,” Orom said. “These are men for whom active surveillance may be a viable option. “Ideally, prostate cancer patients’ treatment decisions will reflect an accurate understanding of treatment options, assess treatment outcomes and chances of recovery, and also include personal preferences. Results of this study strongly support managing emotional distress in all prostate cancer patients.”