Depression Can Affect Cancer Patients' Survival Chances

Depression can increase a cancer patient's risk of dying, according to an analysis published in journal Cancer. The results highlight the need to systematically screen patients for psychological distress and offer subsequent treatments. A number of studies have already shown that a person's mental attitude can impact their physical health.

To determine the effects of depression on cancer patients’ disease progression and survival, researchers analyzed all of the studies to date related to the topic. A total of 26 studies including over 9400 patients were used to examine the effects of depression on patients’ cancer progression and survival.

Graduate student and lead author of the analysis, Jillian Satin, MA, spoke of the results; “We found an increased risk in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not.” In the combined studies, it was found that 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.

These elevated mortality risks remained even after considering patients’ other clinical characteristics that might affect survival, indicating that depression may play a role in shortening survival. However the authors say that additional research must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached. The authors also add that their analysis combined results across various tumor types, so future studies should examine the effects of depression on differing types of cancer.

The investigators caution that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small, so patients should not feel that they must constantly maintain a positive attitude to improve their chance of survival. The study indicates that its important for physicians to regularly screen cancer patients for depression and to provide necessary treatments.


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