Depression causes cancer patients to die sooner

Tuesday 5th August, 2008

DepressionA recent study at the University of Liverpool has found that people in the advanced stages of cancer with depression have been found to die sooner than they should.

The study that lasted for six months found there to be a 7% increased chance of dying in those cancer patients that were depressed and this percentage increased further with the severity of the depression. Patients with advanced cancer commonly suffer with depression and in a large proportion it is persistent.

Researchers used a method originally devised for screening postnatal women to examine the patients mood and symptoms. The method involved questioning the patients about worthlessness, subjective sadness, suicidal thoughts and pain. 29% of patients were affected with depression at the first screening and nearly 55% of surviving patients were still depressed 8 weeks later.

“We know that a patient’s mental state affects their physical state but not enough is known about why this happens. We believe that when someone is depressed they lose motivation and therefore the will to live,” said Professor Mari Lloyd-Williams from the School of Population, Community and Behavioural Sciences.

“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.”



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