A new study by the King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry shows that individuals who have a serious mental illness are also far more likely to have lower cancer survival rates than individuals who do not suffer from mental illness. According to Dr. Chin-Kuo Chang who was the lead author of the study “We found that people with mental health disorders had worse survival rates than people with no history of mental illness, even though they were not presenting with symptoms of cancer any later than other people. This suggests there is something happening during their care, rather than the problem being late diagnosis or screening.” Individuals who suffer from serious mental illness usually have a number of health and medical problems. It is estimated that people who have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will have a life expectancy that is 15-20 years less than the life expectancy of individuals who do not have serious mental illness.
According to the senior author on the study, Professor Robert Stewart, “Our next step is to understand the barriers to care for people with mental health problems. There are many factors to consider, including how the symptoms of mental illness and medication may affect cancer treatment, as well as the considerable social disadvantage and stigma faced by people with severe mental illness. It is unacceptable that there is such a difference between cancer survival rates for people with mental illness and people without. We need to make sure that people with mental health problems have access to the same standard, quality, and range of healthcare services as everyone else.”