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Psycho-Oncology (3 ed.)

Yesne Alici

, Alan T. Bates

, and William S. Breitbart


Delirium is one of the most common and often serious neuropsychiatric complications in the management of cancer patients that is characterized by abrupt onset, fluctuating disturbance in awareness, attention, cognition, and perception. Delirium is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, causing distress in patients, family members, and staff. Delirium is a medical emergency, a sign of significant physiologic disturbance, usually involving multiple medical etiologies, that needs to be prevented, identified, and treated vigorously. Unfortunately, delirium is often under-recognized or misdiagnosed and inappropriately treated or untreated in the medical setting. Psycho-oncologists who care for patients with cancer must be able to diagnose delirium accurately, undertake appropriate assessment of etiologies, and understand the benefits and risks of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions currently available. This chapter presents a comprehensive overview of the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical features, assessment, and management of delirium in cancer patients.

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