New research presented at the Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) Conference in Adelaide yesterday showed that lung cancer survivors experience a significant amount of survivor guilt.
Close to 64% of the lung cancer survivors documented in this study exhibited signs of survivor guilt related to their diagnosis. The results point to the need for further research across all cancer types to develop effective coping mechanisms for cancer patients and survivors.
Ms. Tara Perloff, Senior Manager Support Services with Lung Cancer Alliance, a Washington DC based non-profit, presented the findings at the MASCC Conference. The study is believed to the first of its kind to identify feelings of survivor guilt in any group of cancer survivors.
“The concept of survivor guilt was first identified in 1947 and has been studied across a range of populations, including those with HIV/AIDS, transplant recipients and survivors of traumatic events” Tara Perloff.
“Up until now, little research has been done to show the prevalence of survivor guilt among cancer survivors. Our study has uncovered that many lung cancer survivors experience a deep sense of guilt which has a profound psychological impact on their quality of life,” said Ms. Perloff.
The study involved 108 lung cancer survivors and used a validated psychology scale to identify and measure survivor guilt. While just over half (55%) of respondents reported experiencing survivor guilt, a larger number of respondents (63.9%) scored above average on the scale. Qualitative analysis was also done to uncover recurring themes among those affected.
“We’ve applied these initial results to develop focus groups of individuals with high and low levels of survivor guilt,” explained Ms. Perloff. “Understanding more about the differences between these two groups will inform the development of support programs and interventions to help those who are suffering.”
“Survivor guilt is a real issue,” Professor Ian Olver.
Professor Ian Olver, incoming President for MASCC and meeting convenor, said the research pinpointed a common issue that many clinicians sensed when interacting with patients.
“As well as the psychological impacts, it can also potentially interfere with treatment adherence, stress levels and quality of life,” said Professor Olver.
“Now that we have some research showing how common this is, the next step is to identify whether survivors from other types of cancer experience the same phenomenon. The real challenge will be determining how services can better support patients who are experiencing this debilitating psychological issue.”