Persistent depression can significantly shorten lung cancer survival — even if patients receive the latest cancer treatments, new research shows.
“We need to help these patients, not only at diagnosis, but throughout treatment to take depressive symptoms out of the equation and let these impressive new therapies do their jobs,” lead author Barbara Anderson, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University says.
“Previous studies have just looked at depression at the time of diagnosis and shortly thereafter to predict survival,” she shares in a university news release. “But this study shows that what happens to depression levels after diagnosis and in the months thereafter are key to understanding how depression relates to premature death.”
Andersen and her colleagues assessed depression and anxiety in 157 patients with advanced lung cancer at the time of diagnosis, then monthly for eight months, and again every other month for up to two years.
At diagnosis, 8% had moderate to severe depression, 28% had moderate depression, and the remainder had milder symptoms.
Most patients had decreases in depression symptoms during follow-up, but those who had continuing depression and those with the most severe depression were more likely to die sooner, according to the study. The results were published online recently in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
How to get help
The researchers also compared two patients who had comparable depression scores at diagnosis and were similar in all other ways. However, one patient’s depression had improved after five months, while the other patient’s was worse.
The projected chance of survival at one year was