Behavioral Problems in Cancer Patients and Survivors: Factors in Psychoneuroimmunology

Behavioral symptoms are commonly seen in cancer patients and survivors. For example, in breast cancer patients, such symptoms include depression, cognitive impairment, sleep disorders, and fatigue (Bower, 2008). These symptoms have adverse effects on the treatment results of cancers. They also affect the quality of life including sleep, energy, and cognition. Problems such as depression and insomnia have been closely related to the risk of cancer mortality (Irwin, 2013).

It is important to understand the factors of such behavioral problems in order to manage the symptoms in cancer patients. For example, physiological factors such as inflammation and endocrine dysfunction may be associated with the symptoms of depression. Anemia may be connected to chronic fatigue (Bower, 2008). Psychosocial factors including psychiatric history have also been linked to behavioral problems in cancer patients and survivors.

Furthermore, physical factors such as pain and menopausal problems may contribute to behavioral disorders in these patients.  Weight problems and body mass index have been connected to chronic fatigue (Bower, 2008). In addition, social and demographic factors such as social status, income, age, and marital status may also play important roles.

Further studies focusing on these factors in psychoneuroimmunology may contribute to the better care of cancer patients. An integrative understanding of the underlying mechanisms may help with the improvement of their quality of life.


Bower JE. Behavioral symptoms in patients with breast cancer and survivors. J  Clin Oncol. 2008 Feb 10;26(5):768-77. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.14.3248.

Irwin MR. Depression and insomnia in cancer: prevalence, risk factors, and effects on cancer outcomes. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2013 Nov;15(11):404. doi: 10.1007/s11920-013-0404-1.

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