Term Paper on Cancer in United States
One of every three persons in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer (American Cancer Society, 1992). The experience of cancer may be accompanied by physical and psychosocial events that threaten a person’s well being and also threaten the physical and psychological health of spouses who care for him or her.
The decline in health, life-style changes and anticipated losses, such as fear of death, may evoke sadness from the person with cancer and the spouse. Sadness is part of a spectrum of depressive symptoms that range from normal sadness to adjustment disorder with depressed mood to major depression. However, many people with a diagnosis of cancer experience a more severe mood disturbance response, such as depression.
Depression is the most common mental disorder among persons with a diagnosis of cancer. The prevalence of depression among persons with cancer ranges from 18-42%, a prevalence rate similar to that in others with chronic physical illnesses. Increased levels of depression in persons with a diagnosis of cancer appear to be more likely for women and have been associated with increased disease severity, impaired ability to perform activities of daily living, symptom distress, a negative view of one’s health status, and diminished social support.
Depression may also affect the lives of the spouses of cancer patients. Cancer disrupts not only the continuity of patients’ lives and their hopes for the future but also that of the spouses. Spouses, who have assumed the burden of caregiving for the cancer patient with complex health care needs in the home setting, may experience deterioration of physical and mental health and functioning.
The emotional responses felt by spouses, such as fear of the patient dying and uncertainty regarding the patient’s health status, may be manifested by negative mood states such as sadness and depression. Depression has been found to occur in up to 49% of spouses of cancer patients. Those spouses who experience a more severe mood disturbance may be unable to care for the patient with cancer