Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be an emotionally challenging journey, leaving caregivers and loved ones grappling with a profound sense of confusion. One study reports that over half (58 percent) of cancer patients surveyed communicated that they struggle more with mental challenges than the physical treatment and side effects. However, harnessing the power of AI could allow clinicians to forge a collaborative alliance with patients, delivering clear conversations, personalized treatment, and more hope amid the diagnosis.
Cancer not only inflicts physical suffering but also brings forth hidden struggles, with depression and mental health challenges often emerging as unseen consequences. A recent study has illuminated a troubling correlation: men diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer face an elevated risk of depression and suicide. This alarming connection underscores the intricate challenges inherent in combating this disease, particularly surrounding common treatments like androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). While this therapy can be beneficial for some patients, it is known to have negative side effects, including loss of sexual function, also known as clinical castration, as well as potentially detrimental effects on cardiac and brain health. Adding complexity to this issue, some studies suggest many men do not benefit from ADT as part of their treatment plan, and that radiotherapy alone can be effective. This introduces a layer of uncertainty into the decision-making process, potentially adversely affecting mental health and overall quality of life during an already arduous treatment journey.
Advancements in AI are offering clarity that was not available before, and thanks to this technology, patients who have gone through hardships around the uncertainty of their treatment options can experience the value first-hand. One example of this is in prostate cancer treatment. Today, there are AI-enabled predictive and prognostic tests that allow clinicians line of sight into whether a patient will benefit from treatment intensification with a specific treatment. This personalized approach to care based on data can help both the patient and clinician enter into informed discussions as they map out the treatment journey together; potentially resulting in more confidence and even hope in the path forward.
These advancements in how the treatment is determined and discussed can also impact the quality of life for the patient, not only physically, but just as importantly, mentally. By empowering patients with personalized information and control, clinicians can help alleviate the burden of the difficult treatment decisions that need to be made, which could help reduce overall anxiety and depression for patients. The more information the patient has, the more peace of mind that is possible. This focus on holistic well-being not only improves the patient's quality of life but also promotes treatment adherence, ultimately leading to better clinical outcomes.
However, the journey is far from over. Recognizing the importance of mental health in cancer care is just the first step in a patient-centered approach. Embracing precision AI ensures a patient-centered approach that supports effective treatment and mindful practices throughout every stage of care. This approach offers hope and empowerment, and what’s more, a significant leap toward comprehensive personalized cancer care for patients and their families.