Challenges in Treating Cancer Patients With Unstable Psychiatric Disorder

Val Bellman, Nina Russell, Kartik Depala, Alexandra Dellenbaugh, Saral Desai, Ramu Vadukapuram, Shweta Patel, Sushma Srinivas


In this review, we first present a case of chronic myeloid leukemia with acute psychosis, and then we will discuss the incidence of cancer in patients with psychotic disorders, the manifestations of new-onset psychosis, and the prevalence of preexisting psychosis in cancer patients, coupled with their impact on the treatment, diagnosis, and prognosis of cancer. This was a case that presented with acute psychosis and was found to have an elevated white blood cell count upon admission to an inpatient psychiatric unit. He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia and successfully managed with imatinib/dasatinib therapy. Psychiatrically, he was stabilized on two long-acting injectable medications to help maintain adherence. We were able to eliminate his active psychotic symptoms and return him to normal functioning in affect and thinking, achieving sustained compliance with treatment. We identified multiple inconsistencies in screening for cancer of all types in these patients, masking of signs and symptoms that would typically clue physicians to the presence of cancers, underreporting of symptoms, and disparate access to healthcare resources in patients with mental disorders when compared to the general population. Treatment of cancer in these patients as compared to the general population has also been shown to be incongruent, which will be elaborated upon. Psychiatric interventions, as well as supportive measures, for treating patients who are facing challenges during active cancer treatment will be discussed.

World J Oncol. 2021;12(5):137-148


Leukemia; Psychosis; Mania; Cancer screening; Antipsychotics; Compliance

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