Suicide and suicidal thoughts in cancer patients

Antonio Filiberti, Carla Ripamonti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Backround: Many factors increase vulnerability to suicide in cancer patients. Uncontrolled pain and other physical symptoms, psychological distress, and existential suffering are related to suicide in oncology. There is a strong consensus that physicians and nurses are not adequately trained to manage the potential suicide patient. This paper offers suggestions for the early recognition of cancer patients at risk of suicide, for the planning of crisis intervention and a physician-patient communication strategy. Methods: A review of the literature about suicide in cancer patients was carried out by MEDLINE and PSYLIT and peer contacts. Results: Through a review of the literature and their clinical experience, the authors outline a number of vulnerability factors of suicide with the intention to help health professionals to face the dilemma of suicide in cancer patients. Clinical vignetees reveal how a patient may reject his/her suicidal intention if adequate pharmacological and psychosocial supports are offered. Other case reports of patients refusing cancer therapy show that suicide is a complex phenomenon touching ethical, sociological, medical and psychiatric issues. Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis that improved patient-physician communication, to supply adequate psychological crisis intervention, respect for patient-centered care, familiarity with the tenets of palliative medicine along-side effective education in suicidology, and the routine use of teamwork may reduce the need of suicide in cancer patients and probably the need to hasten death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Cancer
  • Suicide
  • Suicide thoughts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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