Depression may hinder cancer rate survival
According to a study released in September from researcher at the University of British Columbia, depression may hinder cancer rate survival.
After examining the results, researchers found that death rates were as much as 25 percent higher with patients who showed symptoms of depression. But the rates were 40% higher with patients who were officially diagnosed with depression.
“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," said co-author of the study Jillian Satin, published Sept. 14 in the journal Cancer. “Cancer patients need not panic if they are experiencing depressive symptoms, but it is certainly reasonable to talk to their physicians about their mental health,” says Jillia.
So, what’s the actual physical reason for the risk? Previous research has linked stress with the growth of tumors or spreading of cancer. The reason could be that stress may have an impact on hormones or the immune system. Or maybe a depressed person can tend to engage in behavior that affects the outcome, such as not complying with scheduled treatments. “There are still many unanswered questions as the effects observed in this study are quite small and may be due to other factors,” says Dr. Julie Sharp, of the charity Cancer Research UK.
Depression may hinder cancer rate survival but the authors say additional research must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached. The authors add that their analysis combined results across different tumor types, so future studies should look at the effects of depression on different kinds of cancer.
Another reason that depression may hinder cancer rate survival is that patients battling both cancer as well as depression tend to feel distressed and have difficulties with everyday tasks. They, at times can't follow medical advice. Doctors believe that depression, if left untreated, can shorten a cancer patient's life.
“There are still many unanswered questions as the effects observed in this study are quite small and may be due to other factors,” says Dr. Julie Sharp, of the charity Cancer Research UK.
“More research will be needed to explain whether these observations are true and if so why.”
The researchers note that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small, so patients should not feel that they “must maintain a positive attitude to beat their disease.” The study indicates that it is important for physicians to regularly screen cancer patients for depression and to provide appropriate treatments.
American Cancer Society
Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
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