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Psychiatric Comorbidity Should Not Forestall Cancer Treatment


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN PSYCHOSOCIAL ONCOLOGY SOCIETY

"Jack Nicholson did for shock therapy what 'Jaws' did for sharks," he wryly paraphrased British psychiatrist Susan Benbow as saying in an allusion to the depiction of ECT in the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest."

In practice, ECT can reduce emotional suffering and physical pain and can "restore capacity for enjoyment of whatever life remains to be lived," said Dr. Fernandez-Robles.

For terminally ill patients with unremitting depression, it offers hope for engagement "in the important process of saying good-byes and wrapping things up."

Adverse effects can include nausea, headache, postictal delirium, cardiovascular complications, prolonged apnea, and well-known effects on anterograde and recent retrograde memory. Indeed, patients described by Dr. Fernandez-Robles did experience memory-related side effects.

Nonetheless, he said each of the patients had "clear-cut" indications for ECT and their quality of life improved dramatically as a result of the therapy.

"I am really interested in ... the impact of serious mental illness on the quality of care we give to our patients," he said following the meeting.

Neither presenter disclosed any relevant conflicts of interest.

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