Examining Sex Disparities in Behavioral Oncology Referral Rates

Many young patients affected by cancer suffer from various psychosocial problems. These include distress, depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders. It is therefore obvious that it is important to help patients with these problems in order to improve their well-being and quality of life as much as possible. Not only are individual consequences conceivable for the individual patients if they do not receive appropriate psychosocial care, but economic consequences can also arise, including longer hospital stays than necessary from a medical aspect, which entail avoidable costs. Identifying psychosocial needs and addressing these needs is therefore a very important part of the overall oncological treatment, which is supposed to be provided in the form of psychological counselling, psychological or psychiatric treatment.

This study investigates whether there are gender differences in this area for young patients with cancer. Results show that female patients have higher stress scores than male patients, with both female and male patients reporting to suffer the most from emotional difficulties. It also became clear that male patients were less likely to receive a behavioural oncology referral for further therapy than female patients.

Female patients were 2.5 times more likely to be referred to further therapy than male patients. These findings support and complement previous research: inequalities between female and male patients in mental health care and service provision do exist and should not be ignored. But how can equality in access to mental psychosocial care be achieved? What is crucial are good interventions that firstly highlight the importance of mental health services, secondly help to ensure that mental health is no longer seen as a stigma, and thirdly address and tackle prejudice – both conscious and unconscious.