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Major depression in UK cancer patients going untreated

Only 17% of patients reacted to usual NHS therapy according to new research

Cancer patient therapy

Three-quarters of cancer patients with depression are not receiving any treatment, according to new UK research published in The Lancet.

The study involved over 20,000 patients with one of five cancers who had participated in routine screening for depression in cancer clinics in Scotland, UK between May 12, 2008, and Aug 24, 2011.

They found the prevalence of major depression was highest in patients with lung cancer, followed by gynaecological, breast, colorectal and then genitourinary cancer.

More worryingly nearly three-quarters (73%) of the 1,538 patients with depression, and for whom the researchers had complete patient-reported treatment data, were not receiving potentially effective treatment.

Professor Michael Sharpe from the University of Oxford said: “One of the biggest barriers we have to overcome is people thinking being depressed is part and package of cancer.

“We've described a new approach to managing depressed cancer patients that is based on the short comings of usual care and integrated with cancer care that really has quite spectacular effects in patients.”

Jacqui Graves, head of health and social care at Macmillan Cancer Support, added: “Depression may be a temporary reaction to a patient's diagnosis and something that can be addressed through information and support, but in other cases it can be more complex and a patient may need therapy or medication.”

Meanwhile one of two related studies, the Symptom Management Research Trials (SMaRT) Oncology 2, found 62% of patients reacted positively to specialised depression care for cancer patients while only 17% responded to the generic treatment offered.

The SMaRT Oncology 3 trial found that major depression could also be treated effectively in cancer patients with a poor prognosis, citing care for those with lung cancer as substantially efficacious.

The research found that extra treatment - estimated to cost £600 per patients - from specifically trained nurses improved the wellbeing of patients. This tailored approach includes antidepressant drugs, problem solving therapy and encouraging patients to stay active where possible.

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

29th August 2014

From: Research, Healthcare

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