Ask the Expert: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and the Emotional Challenges of Patients and Caregivers
Celebrated every November, National Family Caregivers Month is a time to recognize and honor caregivers across the US. In a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 50% of 111 cancer caregivers reported feeling “highly stressed” due to the intense and demanding nature of caregiving, and there is growing evidence this could potentially affect the mental health of the patients as well.1,2
In particular, the mental health of patients with blood cancer, including those living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and their caregivers, can be impacted due to the physical, emotional and social effects of the disease.3,4
CLL is the most common leukemia in adults.5 It’s a type of cancer that starts in cells that become certain white blood cells (called lymphocytes) in the bone marrow. 5 The cancer (leukemia) cells start in the bone marrow but then go into the blood.5
As with other illnesses, COVID-19 has exacerbated the mental health impact of blood cancer on patients, as well as placing an added strain on caregivers. In a recent survey of 100 patients with blood cancer, 96% of patients reported their blood cancer has impacted their mental health since the start of the pandemic in 2020, and 72% of patients said they rely most on their family members to provide them with emotional support for their blood cancer.
I am joined by Hematologist and Oncologist Dr. Ken Miller of Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to discuss the impact of blood cancers such as Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia on the mental and emotional health of both patients and caregivers and share resources to help meet this important need.
About Our Guest
Dr. Miller has had over 20 years of experience in treating patients who have cancer and blood diseases. He is the author of four medical books and has lectured nationally and internationally on cancer survivorship care.
The AstraZeneca Blood Cancer Survey referenced above was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 100 US patients with blood cancer, between August 31st and September 11th, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 9.8 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.
- National Alliance for Caregiving. Cancer Caregiving in the U.S. Updated June 2016. Accessed September 2022. https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/CancerCaregivingReport_FINAL_June-17-2016.pdf
- Litzelman K, Yabroff KR. How are spousal depressed mood, distress, and quality of life associated with risk of depressed mood in cancer survivors? Longitudinal findings from a national sample. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 ;24(6):969-77. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-1420.
- American Cancer Society. Emotional, Mental Health, and Mood Changes. Accessed September 2022. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/emotional-mood-changes.html
- Cancer.net. Types of Palliative Care. Accessed September 2022. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/types-palliative-care
- American Cancer Society. What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia? Accessed September 2022. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/about/what-is-cll.html