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People With Lung Cancer Have A High Risk Of Depression

According to the findings of a recent study, about one-third of patients who have been newly diagnosed with lung cancer have been reported to develop depression. The extensiveness of the mental condition varied from moderate to severe.

Majorly caused by smoking, lung cancer also occurs in people who never smoked and in those who never had prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke. Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths in India among men [1] .

The Study Measured Psychological And Physical Symptoms

The study made use of 186 patients who had been recently diagnosed with advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 85 per cent of all lung cancer cases. The survey was carried out through telephonic conversations, where the psychological and physical symptoms, stress and day-to-day functioning of the patients were measured [2] .

Researchers pointed out that 8 per cent of the patients scored at the severe depressive symptom level and 28 per cent had moderate depressive symptoms.

Depression With Lung Cancer Elevates Pain, Anxiety Levels & Stress

The study was able to ascertain that for most of these patients with severe symptoms of lung cancer, such as coughing up blood, bone pain etc. depression occurred along with the toxic blend of high levels of anxiety, traumatic stress, impaired day-to-day functioning and significant pain and other physical symptoms [3] .

Published in the journal Lung Cancer, the study gathered the understanding that newly-diagnosed patients with moderate or severe depressive symptoms are more likely to have a lower quality of life and worse disease outcomes, as compared to that of the ones who have been diagnosed with lung cancer but with mild or no depressive symptoms [4] .

Nearly 93 per cent of the respondents who were diagnosed with severe depression had extremely high levels of cancer-related stress and depressive thoughts that caused them to develop suicidal thoughts. They also showed very low response towards their treatment.

In comparison to patients suffering from other types of cancer, the ones with lung cancer had high levels of depressive symptoms were much more likely to report severe physical symptoms.

Depression Induced By Lung Cancer Causes High Levels Of Hopelessness

Majority of the respondents diagnosed with the condition reported high levels of hopelessness, and one-third of those with severe depressive symptoms reported thoughts of suicide [5] . They also reported being unable to carry out normal day-to-day activities and had severe or moderate issues functioning with their usual activities such as work, study, housework and family or leisure activities.

"Depression is just part of what these patients are dealing with. It comes with this whole package of worse functioning, more physical symptoms, stress, anxiety and more," said the head researcher. "All of these can have negative effects on treatment, overall health, quality of life and disease progression [6] ."

Researchers Point Out The Need For More Attention On The Issue

"We need depression to be taken more seriously in lung cancer patients. Because the patients in this research were screened as part of study participation, their physicians were notified of their need for further evaluation and treatment," said one of the researchers.

The researchers expect to find a link between depressive symptoms and survival, as a previous study had found that depression was linked to lower survival rates in breast cancer patients; and that mental health treatment helped in managing the condition [7] .

"New therapies, targeted and immunotherapy, are significantly improving outcomes. Patients are living longer, and we need to make similar efforts and advancements to treat symptoms such as these and help patients maintain their quality of life going forward," the researchers pointed out.

On A Final Note...

Globally, 12.4 per cent of lung cancer patients have been reported to have depression. It is because, several physical signs and symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, weight loss, insomnia, fatigue, and chest pain, can disturb the quality of life and cause depressive disorder.

View Article References
  1. [1] Sullivan, D. R., Forsberg, C. W., Ganzini, L., Au, D. H., Gould, M. K., Provenzale, D., & Slatore, C. G. (2016). Longitudinal changes in depression symptoms and survival among patients with lung cancer: a national cohort assessment. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 34(33), 3984.
  2. [2] McFarland, D. C., Jutagir, D. R., Rosenfeld, B., Miller, A. H., Nelson, C. J., & Breitbart, W. (2019). Tumor mutation burden and depression in lung cancer: Association with inflammation.
  3. [3] Andersen, B. L., Valentine, T. R., Lo, S. B., Carbone, D. P., Presley, C. J., & Shields, P. G. (2019). Newly diagnosed patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer: A clinical description of those with moderate to severe depressive symptoms. Lung Cancer.
  4. [4] Webb, L. A., McDonnell, K. K., Adams, S. A., Davis, R. E., Donevant, S. B., & Felder, T. (2019). Lung Cancer Stigma Among African American Survivors of Lung Cancer in South Carolina.
  5. [5] McFarland, D. C., Shaffer, K., Breitbart, W., Rosenfeld, B., & Miller, A. H. (2019). C‐reactive protein and its association with depression in patients receiving treatment for metastatic lung cancer. Cancer, 125(5), 779-787.
  6. [6] Stein, K., McManus, S., Gardan, P. M., Olson, J. S., Miller, M. F., Clark, K., ... & Zaleta, A. K. (2019). Predictors of anxiety and depression risk among individuals with lung cancer.
  7. [7] Maguire, R., Lewis, L., Kotronoulas, G., McPhelim, J., Milroy, R., & Cataldo, J. (2019). Lung cancer stigma: A concept with consequences for patients. Cancer Reports, e1201.
Read more about: lung cancer depression
Story first published: Saturday, December 7, 2019, 18:00 [IST]