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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Seen in Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia

A new study suggests that symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not uncommon among patients with acute myeloid lymphoma (AML) after starting intensive chemotherapy. Results of the study were published in the journal Cancer.

“The rate of PTSD symptoms in our patients was striking and exceeded what has been reported in the literature for patients with hematologic malignancies and for the general population of patients with cancer,” the researchers wrote in their report.

The study was a secondary analysis of a trial conducted across 4 hospitals involving 160 patients with high-risk AML who were being treated with intensive chemotherapy. In this questionnaire-based analysis, patients were evaluated for symptoms of PTSD based on the PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version. PTSD symptoms occurring at 1 month following the beginning of treatment were the focus of the analysis. Other quality of life (QOL) metrics were also examined, and data were analyzed with respect to sociodemographic factors.

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More than one-fourth (28.1%) of patients reported clinically significant symptoms of PTSD at 1 month following AML diagnosis. Most patients considered to have clinically significant PTSD symptoms reported symptoms of intrusion (92%), avoidance (100%), and hypervigilance (97%). Additionally, many patients who did not have clinically significant PTSD symptoms also reported intrusion (27%), avoidance (26%), and hypervigilance (23%) symptoms.

Several baseline sociodemographic factors were linked to PTSD symptoms in unadjusted analyses. These included age (P =.002), white race (P =.004), and postgraduate education (P =.030), with the latter 2 factors linked to lower levels of PTSD symptoms. There was also an association between higher baseline QOL and the presence of fewer PTSD symptoms (P ≤.001). Avoidant coping mechanisms were linked to worse PTSD symptoms (P ≤.001), while approach-oriented coping strategies showed the opposite relationship with PTSD symptoms (P =.001).

Multivariate regression analysis showed higher baseline QOL (P <.001 and less of a decline in qol during the initial weeks hospitalization>P =.018) to be linked to fewer symptoms of PTSD. Approach-oriented coping also remained linked to lower levels of PTSD symptoms in the multivariate model (P =.018), but avoidant coping did not show an association with PTSD symptoms in this analysis (P =.449). White race, education, and age also did not appear significantly related to PTSD symptoms in multivariate analysis.

“Importantly, our results reveal that patients with AML experience substantial PTSD symptoms, including intrusion, avoidance, and hypervigilance,” the researchers concluded in their report. They indicated that early and routine screening of PTSD symptoms in patients with AML may help to identify those who are at risk of developing this condition.

Disclosures: Some authors have declared affiliations with or received grant support from the pharmaceutical industry. Please refer to the original study for a full list of disclosures.


Amonoo HL, LeBlanc TW, Kavanaugh AR, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Cancer. Published online March 25, 2021. doi:10.1002/cncr.33524

This article originally appeared on Hematology Advisor