Researchers in the United Kingdom screened cancer patients for depression using tests that were originally designed to diagnose depression in women after childbirth. They looked at feelings of worthlessness and sadness and thoughts of suicide, as well as measuring pain and cancer symptoms. They found a little less than one-third (29 percent) of advanced cancer patients were depressed. Six months later half of those identified patients who were still alive remained depressed.
In addition to depression, symptoms of tiredness and breathlessness were also associated with a risk of earlier death.
Professor Mari Lloyd-Williams from the School of Population, Community and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Liverpool said,
Depression affects 25% of patients with advanced cancer but at this stage it is difficult to diagnose. Whilst patients with advanced cancer are clearly very ill they can still be effectively treated for depression but the first step in the treatment is the recognition that the patient is depressed.
Professor Lloyd-Williams is at work on a larger study of 400 cancer patients to understand their psychological and emotional needs to improve their palliative care.
SOURCE: Lloyd-Williams et al. Journal of Affective Disorders, epublished ahead of print June 2008.