Can Depression Influence Lung Cancer Survival?

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A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on October 3 concluded that worsening symptoms depression are associated with shorter survival for lung cancer patients, especially for those in the early stages of the disease. On the other hand, when symptoms lift, survival tends to improve. Researchers said “This study cannot prove causation–but it lends support to the idea that surveillance for depression symptoms and treatment for depression could provide significant impact on patients outcomes, perhaps even a mortality benefit.” They also said “Suprisingly, depression remission was associated with a mortality benefit as they had the same mortality as never-depressed patients.”

In the study more than 1700 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients between 2003 and 2005 who had completed an eight item depression assessment at diagnoses and 12 months later were followed. they found almost 40 percent or 681 people had depressive symptoms at diagnosis and 14 percent or 105 people developed new-onset symptoms during treatment. Those depressed at the beginning of the study were 17 percent more likely to die during follow up than those with out depressive symptoms. Those (105 patients) with newly-diagnosed depression symptoms were 50 percent more likely to die than those (640 patients) who never developed depression. And another 254 patients whose depression lasted throughout the study period were 42 percent more likely to die. However, those whose depression at diagnoses were free of depression one year later had the same risk of death as those without depression.

Researchers concluded “Clinicians have to do a better job of treating the whole person and not focusing on the disease only.” “From the patients’ perspective, hopefully some of them will take a look at this study and realize the feelings they arew experiencing are common and they will feel empowered to advocate for themselves and ask their clinician for help or resources when they need it.”

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