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Depression Can Be Deadly for Cancer Patients

Symptoms cut survival time, study found

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Cancer patients with symptoms of depression are more likely to have their lives cut short than cancer patients who are free of such symptoms.

That warning comes from a study in the July/August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

The researchers used a number of demographic, medical, cancer treatment, and psychological factors to predict longevity over a 10-year period for a group of 205 people with cancer.

They discovered that symptoms of depression were the most consistent psychological predictor of shortened survival time. This examination of psychological predictors of survival among people with cancer is a fairly new area of research.

At the end of the 10-year study period, 125 of the people were still alive and 80 had died from cancer-related causes.

"We're trying to understand the role of the mind in the disease process. The fact that depressive symptoms were shown to affect the course of cancer in this study has important implications for psychological screening and treatment of cancer patients," University of Rochester psychologist Kirk Warren Brown says in a news release.

He and his colleagues suggest the first year after someone is diagnosed with cancer would be an appropriate time to screen for symptoms of depression.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about depression.

SOURCE: University of Rochester, news release, July 2003
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