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The Uncomfortable Truth About Suicide & Lung Cancer

  • August 1, 2017
  • RPh on the Go

lung cancerLung cancer is the second most common form of cancer in patients across the country. Unfortunately, it’s also the cause of the highest rates of suicide amongst cancer patients. It’s theorized the reason behind this is the low survival rate amongst lung cancer patients. This is often attributed to the fact that a large majority of the patients are diagnosed late in the game. Without any early warning signs, it’s very difficult to catch lung cancer early enough to make survival a likelihood.

Why Do They Do It?

As sad as the situation is, it’s not hard to understand why lung cancer patients consider suicide as an option. Cancer is a painful disease to suffer with, and lung cancer is no exception. We are dealing with people who are suffering and often cannot breathe as they once did, which makes treatments equally difficult. It’s an incredibly harrowing uphill battle when a patient is dealing with lung cancer.

Throw in the issues of financial burdens. Health insurance isn’t always that helpful. Many of them are struggling with affording treatments and medications. Many cannot work while sick and cannot bring in the income to cover those expenses. Spend any amount of time on a crowdsourcing fundraiser website, and you will see lots of patients asking for donations for healthcare when their families cannot help them.

Many also feel like a major burden to their families, not just in the financial sense, but with physical and emotional demands. Many patients need their families to help with doctors’ appointments and handling day-to-day routines. This can be exhausting for the family, although you will never hear them complain.

Look for the Signs

It’s important to keep an eye out on our patients as they come in for their medicines. Although there is no way to know for sure if someone is suicidal, we can watch them for some tell-tale signs:

  • Talking about wanting to die, even in a hypothetical way
  • Asking about methods of suicide
  • Expressing hopelessness or no lacking purpose
  • Feeling trapped
  • Expressing they are unable to escape the pain
  • Talking about being a burden
  • Acting overly anxious or angry
  • Oversleeping or not sleeping

If you see any of these signs, there is always the opportunity for pharmacists & caregivers to quietly speak with the patient about seeking out counseling or calling a hotline (1-800-273-8255) to work out their feelings. If the patient is sending a family member in to pick up meds, take a moment and talk with that person to gauge the situation.

It’s a tricky situation to wonder if someone is truly suicidal or simply processing their emotions over their state of health. It’s best to make information available and let them know you are there for them. People are more likely to seek help if they know others are there to back them up.

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