Tackling cancer-related depression

29 August 2014 09:16

Shore thing: Cancer needn't be an obstacle to going on holiday

Shore thing: Cancer needn't be an obstacle to going on holiday

Cancer patients are up to six-and-a-half-times more likely to suffer with clinical depression than the rest of the population, according to a new report.

Yet nearly three-quarters are being overlooked when it comes to getting psychological care, so claims a university study of 21,000 Scottish cancer sufferers by Oxford and Edinburgh scientists.

The researchers found that 73% of the 1,130 severely-depressed cancer patients are not getting effective psychological therapy of any kind.

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The results show that clinical depression rates among cancer patients vary between 6% and 13%. This compares with an average of only 2% of the overall Scottish population.

Co-researcher, Oxford University's Michael Sharpe calls such lack of psychological treatment "surprising" since clinical depression is relatively common among cancer patients.

Prof. Sharpe says some sufferers' belief that depression is part of the "cancer package" is a huge obstacle that needs addressing.

The results coincide with physicians announcing heartening findings from two experiments testing new depression-management approaches among cancer sufferers.

Medication and behavioural care are among the psychiatric treatments being used by expert nurses.

The SMaRT (Symptom Management Research Trials) Oncology 2 and 3 programme helps patients re-engaging with everyday life, says Prof. Sharpe. It entails monitoring patients for up to 12 months.

The programme has left almost all patients with a renewed sense of greater control in their own lives, he comments.

The scientists found that lung cancer patients have the greatest incidence of clinical depression with around one in seven sufferers (13.1%).

Oxford University's Jane Walker believes the experiments show that depression can be treated in patients suffering with such severe cancers. Dr. Walker says the programme can substantially enhance people's lives, even those with poor prognoses.

The study is published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

 

 

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