Booster Shots

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For some with prostate cancer, the danger is knowing you have it

December 18, 2009 |  7:32 am
As if prostate cancer were not a grim enough topic, a study released this week by PLoS Medicine found that patients were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide within the first week of being diagnosed, and 2.6 times more likely during the first year. Men who received the news were also far more likely to experience a stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular event than their cancer-free counterparts. Young men seemed most adversely affected.

The link between cancer and the risk of suicide has been well documented, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Men who are diagnosed are far more liable than women to take their own lives – perhaps reflective of the general population, where men are four times as likely as women to complete a suicide. (Women are three times as likely to make an attempt, though. Why such different suicide- completion rates? Theories point to cognitive differences between men and women, particularly women’s tendencies to process their experiences with friends.)

If you or someone you know is dealing with the burden of cancer, don’t give up on yourself. Know that there is plenty of help and treatment out there, as well as support groups to carry you through difficult times. Here’s a fact sheet from the American Cancer Society on the symptoms of depression, and some information from the National Cancer Institute on how to cope with it.

-- Amina Khan
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