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Cancer patients ‘have 13-fold increased risk of depression’

GPs should be alert to ‘emotional distress’ in patients with a recent diagnosis of cancer, as they are much more likely to develop anxiety problems or depression, say UK researchers.

The study used data from 173 general practices in Scotland, obtained from the Primary Care Clinical Informatics Unit.  Cases were 18 years of age with a diagnosis of cancer, matched to controls with no cancer, depression or anxiety diagnosis. A total of 7,298 cancer cases and 14,596 controls were included in the final analysis.

They found patients with cancer were 13 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and 14 times more likely to develop anxiety within a year of diagnosis, compared with matched controls.

 They were also four times more likely to excessively consume alcohol, compared with non-cancer patients. They were also prescribed significantly more psychotropic drugs than non-cancer patients.

The researchers concluded: ‘All health professionals, in primary and secondary care, should be alert to emotional distress in patients with cancer and ensure psychological health is discussed and treated.’

British Journal of Cancer 2012, available online 11 October

http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/bjc2012364a.html

Readers' comments (6)

  • Wow - so patients with significant/life changing illnesses are more likely to get depressed?! Who'd have thought it... I'll be changing my practice immediately since I thought that people were usually happy when they found out about their cancer.

    As an aside, does anyone have an update on the bears - arboreal defaecation study?

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  • Bear is still in the tree

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  • Wouldn't it be very strange if this were not the case? The absence of anxiety/depression might, in fact, be a cause for concern regarding mental health. Surely staff in the 'caring professions' don't need to be told that patients diagnosed with cancer will be upset, anxious and possibly depressed. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is that staff are considered so insensitive and uncaring, that they need to have this pointed out to them.

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  • This is absolutely outrageous.
    What on earth do they think that doctors smoke?
    It must be pretty good stuff to block out patients distress associated with serious illness.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Thank you for telling me 'Your mother is a woman '. Have they not got other more 'interesting' studies to run other than this??They suppose some people do not know holistic approach in dealing with cancer patients??????

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  • "Perhaps the most interesting thing here is that staff are considered so insensitive and uncaring, that they need to have this pointed out to them." - Sadly they are. I've been quite shocked by the lack of sensitivity shown even by staff in onc departments towards the emotional health of their patients.

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