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Higher Injury Risk at Stressful Times

Posted 9/6/2016

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  It is gratifying to see a study that makes perfect common sense. We all know (whether or not we think about it) that the risk of making mistakes or having an injury is sure to be higher at a time of major stress. When we are distracted by a crisis, we definitely pay less attention to putting our foot firmly on the next step or looking just as carefully when we turn a corner or pull into a small parking space.

  This recent study from Sweden looked at 720,000 people who were diagnosed with cancer over a twenty year period. Their risk of injury was increased 15 fold during the period before and soon thereafter a cancer diagnosis. I am positive that the finding would be similar if the focus had been on people who were worrying about a recurrence (e.g. had been coughing for several months and were about to have a scan or MRI to look at their lungs) or whose partner/parent/child had just been diagnosed or moved into a more advanced phase of illness.

  Even if you are not interested into reading this article from MedScape, do take the lesson the heart. During a time of distraction or intense worry or stress, slow down.

Injury Risk Rises Just Before and After a Cancer Diagnosis
Fran Lowry

The time before and after a diagnosis of cancer can be a perilous time for patients, new research shows.

In a register-based study of over 720,000 individuals who were diagnosed with cancer in Sweden during a 20-year period, the risk for both iatrogenic (from medical complications) and noniatrogenic (from accidents or self-harm) injuries rose as much as 15-fold in the 16 weeks before and after their diagnosis compared with the previous year.

The injuries required inpatient care and point to the "total burden of medical complications and call for prevention of intentional and unintentional injuries during the diagnostic process of cancer," the new study concludes.

The study was published online on August 31 in BMJ by a team from Sweden, with first author Qing Shen, a postgraduate student at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

"Clinicians and researchers should pay more attention to the negative influence of a diagnosis of cancer on the health and well-being of patients," comment Holly G. Prigerson, PhD, professor, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York, and colleagues, in a linked editorial. "Patients cannot undo their diagnosis, but effective and empowering interventions could limit the extent to which they become undone by it," the editorialists conclude.

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