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Lynne Eldridge MD

Does Cancer Raise Suicide Risk?

By November 28, 2012

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It's a topic that many of us are hesitant to mention.

Suicide.

Maybe it's because we are afraid that saying the word will tip the scale for someone who is at the edge.

But it's just as likely to be what some think is a trait limited to Midwesterners. "If you don't talk about it, it doesn't exist."

Yes. Having a diagnosis of cancer increases the risk of suicide - doubles it in fact -- and it's important to talk about because in some ways it's counterintuitive. You might ask, "Why would someone who has worked so hard to survive while going through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, turn around and take their life?"

Yet the hopelessness people may feel after a diagnosis of cancer, is no different than the hopelessness felt in a host of other life events that raise risk.

What does seem really counterintuitive to me is that suicide risk is highest in the first week after diagnosis. The first week... This is a time period during which people have not yet heard all of the numbers and statistics. A treatment plan - if in place - is in the preliminary stages. And second opinions haven't even been scheduled.

Why does this mean for you?

If you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed, or, even ever diagnosed with cancer, educate yourself about the warning signs of suicide. Think of ways of providing hope. Not false hope or lies. But hope. And check out these articles:

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