Depressed cancer patients less likely to recover well after treatment

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I came across a study last week from Macmillan Cancer Support and the University of Southampton, which reveals that people with depression are significantly less likely to recover well after treatment for colorectal cancer compared to those without depression.

It naturally got me wondering if the results would be replicated in breast cancer patients, and I suspect the answer would be affirmative. Previous Macmillan research has shown that more than half a million people who have received a cancer diagnosis are also living with a mental health issue, such as depression.

Macmillan warns that unless people undergoing cancer treatment are asked about other illnesses, concerns and worries by their healthcare professionals, mental health issues may get missed and they could lose out on vital support. It says many people risk being unable to get their lives back and live well after their cancer treatment has ended.

Prof Jane Maher, Joint Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

People can live well after cancer, but only if they get the right support. This is a stark reminder that every cancer patient is different and so many people are living with many issues on top of coping with cancer. As healthcare professionals we need to consider each person’s individual needs to ensure they get the best support possible. And not just while they’re going through treatment, but for many years afterwards.

I’m pleased to see the recognition that depression is not just confined to a period of diagnosis. While most people will understand that dealing with a chronic illness like cancer causes depression, not everyone understands that depression can go on for many months and even years after cancer treatment has ended. Depression is a survivorship issue which urgently needs to be addressed. Early recognition and effective treatment of depression has the potential to enhance the quality of life of cancer survivors.

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