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Friday, July 31 • 10:40am - 12:10pm
S11: What Do We Know About Suicide After Cancer?: Understanding the Challenges Across the Treatment Trajectory

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Suicidal thoughts and impulses are among the most challenging psychological symptoms in cancer patients.  Though research has shown for decades that a cancer diagnosis is associated with an increased risk for suicide, the problem is not widely addressed and medical professionals working with cancer patients often feel unprepared to understand and respond to suicidal symptoms in their patients.  Appropriately managing suicidal symptoms can be very demanding, often requiring a risk assessment, urgent or emergent mental health care, while also raising concerns about medical symptom management, professional ethics, patient autonomy, and legal liability.  Moreover, much suicide research and interventions to prevent suicide have been conducted with individuals with psychiatric rather than medical conditions, making it difficult to know how well this literature fits with oncology settings or patients.

To improve understanding of suicidal symptoms in cancer patients, this symposium presents three speakers addressing the challenge of suicidal symptoms across the continuum of care from diagnosis and treatment to long-term survivorship and end-of-life care. Andrew Roth (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA), author of several studies on empirically based treatment for depression in cancer patients, will present his recent work on managing risk for suicide in cancer paitents.  Christopher Recklitis (Harvard Medical School, USA) whose work focuses on behavioral outcomes in cancer survivors, will present on the persistence of suicide risk into the survivorship period and the relationship of suicidal symptoms to medical late-effects.  Keith Wilson (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Canada), an expert on behavioral health intervention in palliative care, will present on the different ways patients’ may experience a desire for death, including the wish for physician-hastened death.  Each presentation will highlight the challenges in conceptualizing, assessing, and managing suicidal symptoms that are relevant to each phase of cancer treatment.  The symposium discussant, Donald Rosenstein (University of North Carolina Medical School, USA) an expert in psychosomatic medicine and consult-liaison psychiatry, will provide critical commentary on the presentations, putting the findings in the larger context of what is known about suicide in psychiatric and medically ill-populations.  Finally, Dr. Rosenstein will facilitate a question and answer session allowing attendees to comment on the presentations or ask their own questions of the speakers.  Although cancer patients are at increased risk, suicide remains an understudies topic in cancer care; this symposium will inform attendees of the most recent empirical findings on suicidal symptoms in cancer patients and provide information directly relevant to their psycho-oncology research and practice.

Chair: Christopher Recklitis
Discussant: Donald Rosenstein

S11-1: Surviving Cancer but Succumbing to Suicide: What Explains the Risk in Long-Term Survivors?, C. Recklitis

S11-2: Desire for Death, Suicidal Ideation, and Interest in Physician-assisted Suicide in Palliative Cancer Care, K. Wilson

*Evaluating and Managing Risk for Suicide in Patients Receiving Cancer Therapy, A. Roth


*Abstract added after the printing of the abstract book and program 

Friday July 31, 2015 10:40am - 12:10pm
Marquis Salon 1/2

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