Depression is much more common in cancer patients than in the general population, but it is often left untreated and it may be the cause for shortened survival.

Three studies, published in Lancet publications, have investigated depression in cancer patients more.

The studies revealed that about three-fourths of cancer patients with major depression don't receive treatment. The researchers, however, devised a depression care treatment aimed to help patients with depression to live more active lives.

"Major depression is common in patients attending cancer clinics and most goes untreated," said the authors of one of the studies published in The Lancet Psychiatry. "A pressing need exists to improve the management of major depression for patients attending specialist cancer services."

Researchers in this study looked at data from 21,000 patients in Scotland between 2008 and 2011. They found that 73 percent of cancer patients with major depression do not receive treatment.

They found that 13 percent of patients with lung cancer had depression, 6 percent of those with genitourinary cancer and 11 percent of patients with gynecological cancer had depression. Additionally, they found that 9 percent of breast cancer patients and 7 percent of colorectal cancer patients had depression. They found that depression was more commonly diagnosed in female patients.

In the study published in The Lancet, researchers found that a combination of antidepressant medication and psychological treatment is needed to treat depression in cancer patients.

They also suggested a team consisting of a nursing case manager, a primary care physician, a psychiatrist and the patient's oncologist as part of the intervention.

The study consisted of about 500 patients, 90 percent of whom were women. The patients were randomly assigned to the depression intervention or normal care. They found that 62 had a response after 24 weeks compared to only 17 percent in the normal care group.

In the third study, published in Lancet Oncology, researchers narrowed into lung cancer patients. The study looked at 142 patients with lung cancer and depression. Of the patients, 68 were randomly assigned to a depression care group and the rest to a normal care group. After 32 weeks, 30 percent of the patients had died, but they found that the average depression severity was lower in the group of patients in the depression care group.

One of the study authors, Michael Sharpe, said this is about treating people with two illnesses. He said an emphasis has been placed on extending life without caring about the quality of life.

"They often feel hopeless and negative and have suicidal thoughts," he said. "You can see they have worse physical symptoms, and there is evidence they have poorer survival rates."

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