Hope, Optimism Reduce Psychological Distress in Advanced Cancer

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Severe psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, are common in patients managing advanced cancer.
Severe psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, are common in patients managing advanced cancer.

Hope and optimism may moderate different facets of psychological distress among patients with advanced cancer, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Patients with advanced cancer face numerous hardships and uncertainties associated with their condition and often experience severe psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety. Identifying potential predictors and mediators of psychological distress is important as this has implications for treatment decisions and outcomes.


For this cross-sectional analysis, researchers evaluated the outcomes of 84 patients with advanced melanoma, colorectal, lung, or gastrointestinal cancers who had a predicted progression-free or overall survival of less than 1 year. Patients completed a survey that measured anxiety and depressive symptoms, optimism, hope, prediction for 12-month survival, and demographic information; the patients' oncologists also provided predictions for 12-month survival and patient performance status.

Results of the study showed that having high levels of hope was associated with less severe depressive symptoms, and patients who were highly optimistic experienced less severe anxiety.

The authors concluded that “[hope and optimism] may reduce the likelihood that patients make treatment decisions in reaction to transitory psychological distress and increase the likelihood that they will make treatment decisions that are in line with more stable life values,” but the authors also did note that these findings should be confirmed in future studies. 


Fischer IC, Cripe LD, Rand KL. Predicting symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients living with advanced cancer: the differential roles of hope and optimism [published online April 21, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4215-0

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