Cancer and serious mental illness: A qualitative exploration–findings

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction Serious mental illness (SMI) is associated with poorer cancer outcomes. Reasons for such inequalities are unclear; those with this comorbidity receive fewer specialist interventions and die earlier than the general population. Further exploratory work is required.
Objectives Exploring the experience of SMI and cancer from the perspective of those affected by this comorbidity and those caring for them professionally or informally.
Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ‘key patients’ living with SMI who had received a cancer diagnosis (n=7), significant others who had supported key patients (n=4) and healthcare professionals who had worked with at least one KP (n = 17). A panel of patients and professionals ratified interview guides. Interviews were analysed thematically.
Results Mental health professionals were more confident in their knowledge of the needs of this population than oncology profes- sionals, but were challenged by working with patients with major physical health needs. Key patients’ mental health appeared to remain stable after cancer diagnosis, and they expressed altruism towards others with comorbid cancer and SMI. Significant others and healthcare professionals were more likely to critique systemic aspects of care than were key patients.
Conclusions Professionals feel challenged when working out- side of their usual job role. Training needs include mental illness awareness in an oncology setting. Improved coordination and com- munication is required, encompassing significant others as well as professional groups. SMI may protect against the psychologi- cal impact of cancer. Key patients were keen to provide advice and support to others in similar situations. Further research is needed into these areas.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2017
Event25th European Congress of Psychiatry: Together for Mental Health - Florence, Florence, Italy
Duration: 01 Apr 201704 Apr 2017


Conference25th European Congress of Psychiatry
Abbreviated titleEPA 2017
Internet address


  • Mental Health
  • Cancer
  • Health Services


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