Cancer patients do not just battle with their physical ailment. Many also suffer from clinical depression. Unfortunately, as many as three-quarters of these patients to do not receive effective treatment for their condition, researchers from Oxford and Edinburgh universities in the UK have found.
For their new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry on Thursday, Aug. 28, Jane Walker, from the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry at the Warneford Hospital in the UK, and colleagues studied the data of more than 21,000 cancer patients in Scotland. They found that clinical depression tends to be more prevalent among cancer patients compared with the general population. Depression occurs in between to 6 to 13 percent of cancer patients while the incidence only occurs in 2 percent of the general population.
Depression also appears to be more common in patients with lung cancer, affecting about 13 percent of lung cancer patients involved in the study, followed by those diagnosed with gynecological cancer (10.9 percent), breast cancer (9·3 percent), colorectal cancer (7 percent) and genitourinary cancer (5·6 percent). Younger patients, those with worse social deprivation scores and women who were diagnosed with lung cancer and colorectal cancer were also found to be more vulnerable to major depression.
Despite the prevalence of depression among cancer patients, the researchers found that 73 percent of the patients who were diagnosed with major depression, which causes affected individuals to feel consistently low as well as have difficulty sleeping and eating, were not given any kind of appropriate treatment for their condition.
"Major depression is common in patients attending cancer clinics and most goes untreated. A pressing need exists to improve the management of major depression for patients attending specialist cancer services," the researchers wrote.
The findings of the study were published as health experts revealed of the promising results from trials that test a new nurse-led approach for managing depression in cancer patients. In a study involving 500 patients, the new therapy reduced the depression scores of the participants by over 60 percent. Study researcher Michael Sharpe, from the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry, described how the program can help cancer patients battling with depression.
"We've described a new approach to managing depressed cancer patients that is based on the short-comings of usual care and integrated with cancer care that really has quite spectacular effects in the good prognosis patients and also has efficacy in the poor prognosis patients," Sharpe said. "What this programme does is get people back engaged with life and feeling more in control of their lives again."