Cancer and Depression: Managing a Common Comorbidity

Posted by Cam McClellan Teems

September 19, 2017 at 1:59 PM


Depression is one of the most common comorbidities after a cancer diagnosis. That’s no wonder. The severity of the disease, the impact on family members, the difficulty of treatment regimens, uncertain outcomes, the financial strain and other factors can lead to depression or exacerbate existing depression. The depression is easy to overlook when other symptoms – such as sleep problems, weight loss or pain – are more severe.

Here are some recent studies that highlight the impact of depression (and screening for it) on cancer outcomes:

  • A Cancer Experience Registry study, developed by the Cancer Support Community’s Research and Training Institute, found that depression is a persistent problem in cancer care. Nearly half (47%) of the 12,000 respondents were identified as at risk for clinically significant levels of depression
  • A study published this year by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in an ASCO journal found that adherence to distress screening protocols (to uncover depression and other problems) set by the Commission on Cancer could lead to 18% fewer ER visits and 19% fewer hospitalizations.

The prevalence of comorbidities is one reason why cancer care is complex and why effective care coordination is necessary.

Topics: Cancer Management

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