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Paying Attention To Signs Of Depression In Cancer Patients

September 17, 2009
A new report published in the online edition of Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, examines the link between cancer and depression. Depression, known to have serious consequences in people with heart disease, can also have a negative impact on the survival rates of those with cancer. Prompted by a number of studies that show a person’s mental attitude can impact physical health, graduate student Jillian Satin, MA, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and her colleagues analyzed 26 studies, representing a total of 9417 patients, that examined the effects of depression on the patients’ cancer progression and survival. “We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not,” says Satin. In the combined studies, the death rates were up to 25 percent higher in patients experiencing depressive symptoms and 39 percent higher in patients diagnosed with major or minor depression. However, the authors stress the need for additional research before any conclusions can be reached, adding that their analysis combined results across different tumor types, so future studies should look at the effects of depression on different kinds of cancer. They also note that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small; however, while patients shouldn’t feel that they have to maintain a positive attitude to beat their disease, the study points to the importance of nevertheless screening cancer patients for depression.