Comorbid mental disorders and psychosocial distress in patients with brain tumours and their spouses in the early treatment phase



The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of comorbid mental disorders as well as the extent of psychosocial distress in patients with intracranial tumours and their partners during the early treatment phase. Moreover, we aimed to identify which events are experienced as most distressing in the context of the early diagnosis of brain cancer by patients and spouses.


Structured clinical interviews for DSM-IV (SCID-IV) were conducted with 26 patients and their partners after the first neurosurgical treatment within the first 3 months after the detection of a brain tumour. Screening measures (NCCN distress thermometer, HADS, IES-R) were used to assess the extent of psychosocial distress as well as anxiety, depression and traumatic stress responses. Distressing experiences were assessed via a structured questionnaire and interview.


Thirty-eight per cent of the patients and 47% of the partners suffered from a psychiatric disorder. Most frequent diagnoses were adjustment disorder and acute stress disorder. The majority of the participants suffered from elevated psychosocial distress. Partners were equally or even more affected than the patients. For the patients, the experience most frequently described as distressing was the first detection of the tumour. The majority of the partners reported to be distressed by the fear of surgery outcomes.


This study revealed that during this very first treatment phase, both brain tumour patients and their spouses show a high prevalence of comorbid mental disorders and psychosocial distress. The findings suggest that research and clinical efforts are needed to address the psychosocial concerns of these populations.

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Correspondence to Simone Goebel.

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Goebel, S., von Harscher, M. & Mehdorn, H.M. Comorbid mental disorders and psychosocial distress in patients with brain tumours and their spouses in the early treatment phase. Support Care Cancer 19, 1797–1805 (2011).

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  • Intracranial tumour
  • Distress
  • Mental disorder
  • Patients
  • Spouses