Friday, November 25, 2011

How Should Cancer Patients Treat Insomnia? by Paul Stevens

When someone is given a cancer diagnosis, they may be instantly overwhelmed by talk of a prognosis and treatment. Often, their lives change drastically at the moment they learn of the diagnosis. While there is a link between cancer patients and insomnia, it is one that is quite often neglected in the course of their care.

The reason that the cancer patients and insomnia link may not be discussed during doctor's appointments is pretty obvious. The patient is trying to take in a lot of new and frightening information, and has other things on his or her mind than how well they are sleeping at night.

The doctor also is trying to parlay all of that information, and many doctors fail to discuss the possibility that the patient may develop insomnia.

Some studies show that up to 50% of cancer patients suffer from insomnia. If the patient is undergoing chemotherapy, that number can be even higher.

The exact reason that such a big link between cancer patients and insomnia exists is still being studied. Some think that it is simply the stress of the diagnosis. Even in healthy people, stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia. It would stand to reason that a potentially life threatening diagnosis could cause the type of stress that would make it difficult to sleep well.

Others think the insomnia could be linked to physical changes that are taking place in the body or that the treatment or medication could cause the link between cancer patients and insomnia.

Whatever the cause, the problem of cancer patients and insomnia should not be ignored. Studies in the general population have shown that insomnia can cause physical problems such as difficulty with the immune system. For obvious reasons, a cancer patient should avoid any type of issue that could cause further physical problems.

Because some treatments can compromise the immune system, cancer patients and insomnia is an issue that should be addressed and, if necessary, treated.

The same treatments that work for the general population will also work to treat cancer patients and insomnia. In some cases, drug therapy may be used, but it is preferable to choose treatment that is based on lifestyle changes or those that do not involve prescription medication.

Cancer patients and insomnia is an issue that can easily get lost in the shuffle of all of the other more pressing needs. Still, treating the insomnia may improve the patient's quality of life and may even help the treatment they receive be more effective.