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Texas Oncology Survey Reveals Significant Link Between Physical and Emotional Well-Being of Cancer Patients

DALLAS (Jan. 10, 2023) – New research reveals the physical changes most cancer patients experience have a negative impact on their body image and mental health. The survey, commissioned by Texas Oncology, polled current and former cancer patients from across the southwestern U.S. to better understand the impact cancer has on self perception, body image, and mental and emotional health.

The Physical Effects of Cancer on Body Image and Mental Health

When it comes to understanding how the physical changes cancer patients experience impact the way they view their body, nearly half (45%) of respondents said they felt grateful for their body’s perseverance throughout treatment. Despite this, many respondents also indicated negative impacts to the way they view their bodies, and one-third (34%) said they expected the changes in the way they view their body to be permanent.

  • 50% felt less attractive
  • 42% felt less self-confident
  • 37% did not feel as comfortable in their own skin
  • 36% avoided intimacy
  • 31% felt less feminine or masculine

Additionally, survey respondents overwhelmingly said the changes they experienced to their body during cancer treatment led to feelings of depression (60%) and anxiety (55%). However, when asked about specific symptoms, even more respondents (70%) said they experienced one or more symptoms of depression (70%) and one or more symptoms of anxiety (65%) during cancer treatment.

While 43% of respondents felt unprepared to deal with the physical side effects of their treatment, more than half (56%) of those surveyed felt unprepared for the mental side effects  they experienced.

Stephanie Broussard, LCSW-S, APHSW-C, director of social work and palliative care at Texas Oncology, explained, "The survey findings highlight the very real mental and emotional challenges that cancer patients experience both during and after treatment. However, patients do not have to manage these challenges alone. It’s important for cancer patients to talk with their care teams about the effects of their cancer journey on their emotional, spiritual, and mental health so they can get proper support to help them manage these symptoms."

Cancer Patients Hesitant to Seek Support Services

The survey findings also indicate a gap in cancer patients’ desire for increased mental and emotional support and how those needs are being met.

Cancer patients said the top two ways they wished they received more support were emotional (46%) and mental (39%). Yet, when asked if respondents sought support to help them cope with the mental or physical side effects of cancer treatment, only a third (33%) sought resources to help them cope with the physical side effects of their treatment and fewer (25%) sought resources for coping with the mental side effects they experienced.

In fact, the majority (59%) of respondents said they were very hesitant/somewhat hesitant to seek support services during their cancer journey.

Only a small percentage said they utilized support services, such as individual therapy (12%) or professional-led support groups (7%), to help them manage their mental or emotional symptoms. Yet, an overwhelming majority (100%) of those who relied on support groups rated the quality of support they received as excellent/very good, and 83% of those who sought individual therapy said the same.

“Cancer treatment can impact a patient’s quality of life, and services such as individual counseling and support groups can help patients take care of their emotional health, which is why it’s vitally important for physicians and care teams to screen cancer patients for symptoms of depression,” said Steven Paulson, M.D., hematologist, medical oncologist, president, and chairman of the board at Texas Oncology. “Cancer patients often feel isolated, which can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, but having a strong support system of family and friends nearby when going through treatment can have a positive impact on a patient’s mental and emotional health.”

By sharing the results of the survey, Texas Oncology aims to raise awareness about the ways cancer can impact body image and mental health in an effort to spark a conversation that brings a greater understanding and validation to the physical, mental, and emotional experience of all cancer patients.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-acceptance and/or other negative thoughts, feelings, or emotions, ask a member of your care team about the resources available in your area to help you manage these symptoms.

To learn more about the resources available to patients, caregivers, and providers with important and helpful information on how to address and manage the toll of cancer on one’s body image and mental health visit EveryBody Has a Story on TexasOncology.com. For more information  about the survey results click here.

About the Survey

The 150 participants in the blinded, 33-question, self-administered online survey included current and former cancer patients in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Survey participants were chosen from the general population in the southwestern region of the U.S. The only criteria for survey participation was a diagnosis of cancer. The average age of the participants was 55 years old – the youngest participant was 25 years old and the oldest was 76 years old. Participants represented a wide range of cancer types including breast cancer, skin cancer, gynecologic cancer, blood cancer, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate and testicular cancers, head and neck cancers, and sarcomas. Using outside field services, the survey included both qualitative and quantitative questions. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About Texas Oncology

Texas Oncology is an independent private practice with more than 525 physicians and 210 locations across the state. Meeting the oncology needs of Texans for more than 35 years, the practice includes Texas Center for Proton Therapy, Texas Breast Specialists, Texas Colon and Rectal Specialists, Texas Oncology Surgical Specialists, Texas Urology Specialists, Texas Infusion & Imaging Center, and Texas Center for Interventional Surgery. As a lead participant in US Oncology Research, Texas Oncology played a role in the development of more than 100 FDA-approved therapies. For more information, visit www.TexasOncology.com.