Sadness and anticipatory grief are normal reactions to the various crises faced during cancer and now, a recent study has found that even mild depressive symptoms were associated with poorer overall survival.
The research found that the patients should be screened and treated for depressive symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
The team, led by Elizabeth Cash of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, was interested to see if depressive symptoms might also affect patients’ health outcomes.
The researchers studied 134 patients with head and neck cancers who reported depressive symptoms during the planning of their treatment.
When the scientists examined the patients’ clinical data over the following two years, they found that patients with greater depressive symptoms had shorter survival, higher rates of chemoradiation interruption, and poorer treatment response.
Cash said, “We observed that head and neck cancer patients who reported more depressive symptoms at their initial appointment were more likely to miss scheduled treatment appointments and were more likely to have tumours that persisted after medical treatment”.
She added, “We also observed that patients with depressive symptoms suffered greater two-year overall mortality rates, and this was especially true for those who did not achieve optimal response to medical treatment”.
Cash explained that most patients in the study did not meet the criteria for the diagnosis of the major depressive disorder, which tells that even mild symptoms of depression may interfere with head and neck cancer treatment outcomes.
She also stressed that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study.
She concluded by saying, “We want patients to know that it is normal to get depressed when they are diagnosed, but it is important to seek help for any depression symptoms because they may lead to poorer outcomes related to their cancer treatment”.>