Results show that there was a diminution in overall incidence of PTSD over time. However, approximately one-third of the participants whose diagnosis at the 6-month assessment was full PTSD or subsyndromal PTSD progressed to full PTSD at 4 years. The study findings showed that none of the participants with no PTSD at 6-months went on to develop PTSD after 4 years. 

The researchers found no significant differences across the PTSD groups in terms of age at diagnosis, gender, marital status, or ethnicity. There were significant differences, however, with regard to type and stage of cancer. For example, women who had breast cancer were less likely to develop PTSD by the 6-month assessment. The thought is that since breast cancer occurs frequently, readily available support services help guard against PTSD in those patients.

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Long-Term Risks for PTSD

This study cautions that patients with cancer are at risk for developing persistent PTSD, even a number of years after diagnosis and treatment of their cancer. The researchers emphasize that oncology clinicians should always monitor survivors for signs of PTSD, especially among those who are long-term survivors. This is particularly important because psychological distress, avoidance, and cognitive difficulties are symptoms of PTSD that could affect treatment adherence.

Bette Weinstein Kaplan is a medical writer based in Tenafly, New Jersey. 


Chan CMH, Ng CG, Taib NA, W LH, Krupat E, Meyer F. Course and predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder in a cohort of psychologically distressed patients with cancer: a 4-year follow-up study. Cancer. 2018;124(2):406-416.