A new study has found that people with depressive symptoms who suffer from head and neck cancer have a poorer overall survival rate.
Depression affects approximately 15-25% of cancer patients.
Results published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, indicate that screening and treatment for depressive symptoms should take place to help improve the quality of cancer patients’ lives.
Many patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer have symptoms of depression, which can make it harder for them to manage the side effects of treatment, quit smoking or maintain healthy sleep and dietary habits.
Poorer treatment response
A research team led by Dr Elizabeth Cash of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, US, studied 134 patients with head and neck cancer who reported depressive symptoms during treatment planning.
Over the following two years, investigators examined the patients’ clinical data and discovered a shorter survival rate, higher rates of chemoradiation interruption, and poorer treatment response among those suffering greater depressive symptoms.
Cash said: “We observed that head and neck cancer patients who reported more depressive symptoms at their initial appointment were more likely to miss scheduled treatment appointments and were more likely to have tumours that persisted after medical treatment.”
She added: “We also observed that patients with depressive symptoms suffered greater two-year overall mortality rates, and this was especially true for those who did not achieve optimal response to medical treatment.”
The power of depressive symptoms
The study also found that poorer treatment response only partially explained the depression-survival relationship; however, there were no substantial effects from factors normally used to determine cancer prognosis, like age and the stage of tumour advancement.
“This suggests that depressive symptoms may be as powerful as the clinical features that physicians typically use to determine the prognosis of patients with head and neck cancer,” said Cash.