(HealthDay News) — One-third of patients diagnosed with cancer will struggle with a mental health disorder, according to a German study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Anja Mehnert, PhD, a professor of psychosocial oncology at the University of Leipzig in Germany, and colleagues held face-to-face interviews with 2,141 Germans with cancer. The patients were between 18 and 75-years-old. Standardized questions were used to determine if the cancer patients had mental health problems classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

The researchers found that about 40% of patients with breast cancer (41.6%), head and neck cancer (40.8%), and malignant melanoma (39.0%) also had at least one mental disorder. The lowest rates of mental disorder, around 20%, occurred among patients with pancreatic (20.3%), prostate (21.6%), or stomach/esophageal cancers (21.2%). The most common mental disorders affecting cancer patients were anxiety disorders and adjustment disorders.

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“[Our] findings reinforce that, as doctors, we need to be very aware of signs and symptoms of mental and emotional distress,” Mehnert told HealthDay. “We must encourage patients to seek evaluation, support, and treatment if necessary, as there are long-term risks often associated with more severe, untreated mental health disorders.”


  1. Mehnert A et al. J Clin Oncol. 2014; doi:10.1200/JCO.2014.56.0086