Research from the University of British Columbia has found that depression may hinder a cancer patient’s chances of survival.
The study was conducted on a group of 26 other studies that included 9,417 patients. After examining the results, researchers found that death rates were as much as 25 percent higher with patients who showed symptoms of depression. But the rates were higher (39 percent) in patients who were officially diagnosed with depression.
While it’s always a good idea to keep a positive outlook on life to maintain optimal health, the researchers don’t want people to think it’s life or death to be chipper.
But they do think that the findings emphasize the need to screen cancer patients carefully for signs of psychological distress, since it is a small, but a real, risk of affecting the medical outcome of patients.
“Cancer patients need not panic if they are experiencing depressive symptoms, but it is certainly reasonable to talk to their physicians about their mental health,” says lead researcher Jillian Satin.
So, what’s the actual physical reason for the risk? Previous research has linked stress with the growth of tumors or spreading of cancer. The reason could be that stress may have an impact on hormones or the immune system. Or maybe a depressed person can tend to engage in behavior that affects the outcome, such as not complying with scheduled treatments.
“There are still many unanswered questions as the effects observed in this study are quite small and may be due to other factors,” says Dr. Julie Sharp, of the charity Cancer Research UK.
“More research will be needed to explain whether these observations are true and if so why.”
September 20th, 2009