Three recent studies have determined that 75% of patients with cancer and depression are not being treated for depression. The studies also showed that serious cases of depression occur more commonly among cancer patients than for people in the population at large. There is a clear relationship between cancer and depression. It also revealed that the type and severity of depression varies according to type of cancer the patient has.

In the first study, cancer and depression was most commonly found in patients with lung cancer, with 13% of them suffering from it.  Additionally, 11% of women with gynecological cancer were severely depressed, as well as 9% of women with breast cancer, 7% of patients with colorectal cancer, and finally 6% of patients with genitourinary cancer had major depression.  By comparison, in the general population about 8% of people of age twelve on up had experienced symptoms of depression (CDC).

Of 1,538 patients diagnosed with cancer and depression, 1130 (73%) were not being treated for their depression. Of the patients with cancer and depression who were receiving treatment for depression, 24% were on antidepressants and only 5% were actually seeing a mental health counselor, with just a few patients having the advantage of both medication and counseling.

In the second study the subjects were 500 cancer patients and of those 253 were selected at random to receive treatment for depression and the remaining 247 were to have the usual cancer care without treatment for depression. In comparing the patients receiving the usual cancer care with the subjects designated to also receive care for depression (in addition to cancer care), the patients receiving treatment for both cancer and depression reported less pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety.  The patients who received treatments for both their cancer and depression also reported having better health and higher functioning as well as a better quality of life. They also believed that they were receiving better care for their depression.

Six months into the study the severity of depression in 62% of the subjects who received mental health care along with their cancer treatment was lowered by at least half. By comparison, only 17% of the patients who only received their usual cancer care showed a lessening of the severity of their depression by at least half.  This shows that treating both cancer and depression has significant positive effects on improving quality of life for cancer patients.

The third study involved 142 subjects who had lung cancer and of those 68 were selected at random to receive treatment for depression, with 74 just receiving the only cancer treatment. When measuring the severity of depression in both groups it became apparent that the level of the severity of depression for those lung cancer patients receiving treatment for depression was significantly lower than for patients just receiving cancer care. Again, patients receiving treatment for both cancer and depression reported they had improved in quality of life, anxiety, role functioning and also perceived their quality of care to be better. The proportion of patients who achieved a response to their treatment was significantly better for the patients receiving treatment for depression along with treatment for lung cancer, as opposed to those patients who only received cancer care.

When analyzing the results of these three studies on cancer and depression it appears that major depression can be effectively treated in patients having a poor prognosis cancer. It was also shown that integrating treatment for depression with lung cancer treatments was substantially more effective than just providing the usual treatments for lung cancer.  Perhaps most importantly, treating both cancer and depression improves the quality of life for cancer patients.  These studies show even among patients with poor prognosis cancer and depression treatment for depression can be effective and improve patients’ lives.

Because our treatment for depression relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.