Patient data has helped to understand the risk of suicide after a cancer diagnosis in England

What happened?

NCRAS analysed patient data to understand the risk of suicide among cancer patients in England. NCRAS found that suicide was highest within the first six months after a cancer diagnosis and was more common among patients with certain types of cancers (mesothelioma, pancreatic, oesophageal and lung cancer). The study has brought attention to the psychological and physical effects of cancer and the need to address the underdiagnosis and undertreatment of depression and anxiety in cancer patients. This knowledge will help to fuel further research and improvements in care to provide cancer patients with better psychological support. 

Why was this work needed?

Using data to understand suicide among cancer patients is needed to know how and when to help patients. Although the risk of suicide may be low compared with the risks for other causes of death in patients with cancer, these deaths are potentially preventable. This was the first study of its kind to look at data from across the whole of England. Without patient data it would not be possible to know what factors are associated with suicide in cancer patients and how to improve care for those in need.  

What are the benefits?

Patient data has helped to discover when the risk of suicide is highest for cancer patients, and for which types of cancer. This knowledge can help the NHS to know when to support cancer patients and which cancer patients might need the most support.The data suggest that improved psychological support and screening for suicide in the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis is needed. 

What type of data was involved?

This study was conducted using data from NCRAS and linked to death certification data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

What was the legal basis for accessing this data?

NCRAS has special legal permission to collect patient level data and use it for research to protect the health of the population. This permission is granted under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006. 

Who carried out this work?

This work was carried out by NCRAS analysts.

Where can I go for more information?

Risk of Suicide After Cancer Diagnosis in England

Blog – Patient data has helped to understand the risk of suicide after a cancer diagnosis in England

If you need someone to talk to you can call the Samaritans helpline for free on 116 123.

This work uses data that has been provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. The data are collated, maintained and quality assured by the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, which is part of Public Health England (PHE).