Volume 39, Issue 3 (May 1994)
Asbestos Exposure and Cancerphobia
In 48 cases of claims of psychic injury due to asbestos exposure, seven were diagnosed as “cancerphobia.” Cancerphobia is a concept primarily used in personal injury cases with little support in the medical community. Analysis of standards for phobia indicates that the term is inappropriate for such legal claims. Phobic reactions are avoidant reactions with panic or intense anxiety on exposure to the phobic stimulus. The cases reviewed indicate lack of psychiatric symptomatology, lack of conformance to accepted standards, and insufficient attention to history—medical and otherwise. This clinical review supports the contention of Simon that cancerphobia is not a credible classification. Skepticism is merited where potential damage awards are limited by minimal physical findings with resultant emphasis on claims of illness phobia, an example being exposure to a toxic substance like asbestos, which may be followed, but not necessarily so, by a variety of adverse consequences. Professional persons should be alert to the misuse of medical concepts in such cases.