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Anxiety Increases Mortality for People with Lung Cancer

Nurse comforting patientPeople with lung cancer who also experience anxiety may die more quickly than their peers who do not experience anxiety, a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reports. Researchers also assessed the effects of depression, but found it did not increase mortality in lung cancer patients.

Lung cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer, and tends to quickly spread to other areas of the body. According to the American Lung Association, it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. Its five-year survival rate is 17.7%. When detected early and still localized to the lungs, lung cancer survival rates rise to 55%, though early detection typically only occurs in 16% of cases.

Anxiety Increases Lung Cancer Mortality

The study followed 684 people who sought treatment for lung cancer between 2004 and 2010. The participants each had non-small cell lung cancer, with a 30-46% survival rate after one year with the disease. Each participant routinely completed a psychological screening to assess for anxiety and depression.

In May 2012, researchers assessed participant survival rates. Even after controlling for other predictors of mortality, such as medical history, type of cancer, and demographic group, people with anxiety were more likely to die from lung cancer and other causes. The researchers found no association between depression and increased mortality.

Managing Mental Health Concerns in People with Cancer

Anxiety is common in people with cancer, especially after receiving a cancer diagnosis. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found 19% of people with cancer experience clinical levels of anxiety, and 22.6% experience subclinical anxiety symptoms.

The study’s authors highlight the need for greater understanding of cancer’s psychosocial effects. If anxiety makes cancer more lethal, than anxiety management is an important component of cancer treatment.

Another recent study suggested psilocybin mushrooms—so-called “magic” mushrooms—could ease depression and anxiety in people with cancer.


  1. Linden, W., Vodermaier, A., Mackenzie, R., & Greig, D. (2012). Anxiety and depression after cancer diagnosis: Prevalence rates by cancer type, gender, and age. Journal of Affective Disorders, 141(2-3), 343-351. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.025
  2. Lung cancer fact sheet. (2016, November 3). Retrieved from
  3. Vodermaier, A., Lucas, S., Linden, W., & Olson, R. (2017). Anxiety after diagnosis predicts lung-cancer specific and overall survival in patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer. A population-based cohort study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2016.12.338

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  • Susannah

    January 26th, 2017 at 1:49 PM

    If we are being very honest we would know that it causes a higher mortality rate for anyone who experiences anxiety in the extreme.

  • Sandy

    January 27th, 2017 at 8:01 AM

    I had a wonderful friend of mine who died from lung cancer almost seven years ago. She was such a fighter and never let her fears of what was to come take her away from being strong and fighting it with everything that she had. I can tell you though that much of the fight is mental, you stay mentally strong and you have a much better shot at beating this horrible disease. But there will always be those times too when positivity just isn’t enough.

  • Nik

    January 28th, 2017 at 7:35 AM

    It has to be very discouraging to learn that you have been diagnosed with cancer. I would think that this would be one of the scariest things that one could ever hear so it would be natural to feel hopeless and indeed anxious when you receive a diagnosis like this.

    Most of us don’t automatically know that there are so many different forms of cancer and that the treatment rate for many of them are actually very high. We always seem to go to what the worst case scenario is and of course this would cause anyone to be stressed and anxious.

    When your health is already compromised then this is usually going to have a negative impact on you overall.

  • Dailey

    January 29th, 2017 at 2:39 PM

    Well lung cancer has a pretty low cure rate to begin with unfortunately.

  • Dawn

    January 30th, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    The thing that stands out to me here is that this is going to then be an opportunity for doctors to refer out to other providers who may then be able t help these patients with the anxiety struggles that they are dealing with.
    Don’t think that just because you treat the physical illness that they anxiety will go away on its on because there could be a myriad of things that are causing the elevated anxiety levels.
    For the patient to best heal these are all going to be the things that also need to be addressed along with the cancer.

  • rayla

    January 31st, 2017 at 10:18 AM

    I wonder how many good productive years of life being constantly under a load of anxiety will this take away from the average person?

  • Willie C.

    September 1st, 2017 at 5:08 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing all this information about lung cancer. I feel like reckless sometimes. I have seen my mother fighting with the lung cancer since last year. She was diagnosed last year and her treatment was carried out at the Best radiation therapy New York by her oncologist. She has finished her end sessions for radiation therapy Suffolk few weeks ago. She has almost recovered herself now and very health.

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