STRESS AND DIAGNOSIS UNCERTAINTY
STRESS RESEARCH CONSIDERING PATIENT ANXIETY AND UNCERTAINTY IS INTERESTING READING…
Stress research has recently shown that for anxious patients not knowing a possible diagnosis can cause more stress than actually knowing that you have a serious illness. Stress and anxiety levels are higher with diagnosis uncertainty. At the recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Associate Professor of Radiology, Dr Elvira Lang, reported on the study undertaken by herself and a colleague at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.
STRESS AND ANXIETY LEVELS OF PATIENTS
Dr Lang reported that the study looked at 214 women of which a group who were waiting to undertake uterine fibroid tumor treatment or cancer treatment and a group who were undertaking a breast biopsy. Prior to undergoing these medical procedures these women all completed tests that would measure their levels of anxiety and stress.
This stress related research found women coming in for a breast biopsy and therefore uncertain of what the diagnosis would be, had significantly higher levels on tests for anxiety and slightly higher on other tests, than those women already diagnosed and having treatment for fibroids and malignant cancer.
HAVING A DIAGNOSIS HELPS IN STRESS MANAGEMENT
Dr Lang found that when people receive a diagnosis, even though it is negative and confirms a serious illness they did gain some control and understanding of their situation and also treatment options. For those without a diagnosis, they did not have this understanding or control and therefore, did not know how to handle the situation and were more anxious and stressed.
STRESS MANAGEMENT LANGUAGE
Further, Dr Lang suggested that it would be beneficial for health care institutions to deal with this patient anxiety. This is assisted by using different language rather than ‘it will only hurt a little bit’ and removing words like ‘hurt’ in explanations and using more clear comfort-based language that did focus on reinforcing the personal strengths of patients in dealing with the situation.
STRESS MANAGEMENT AND STRESS RELIEF IMPLICATIONS
This study has implications for our further understanding of stress relief and stress management. When you remove uncertainty and you know what you are dealing with then your stress, anxiety and worry levels can be significantly reduced, even though such knowledge can have negative consequences.