Newly diagnosed pleural mesothelioma patients may be at higher risk for depression and that could be impacting their outcomes.
This risk for depression appears to have an impact on patients’ quality of life, their pain, and even the number of complications they experience.
Assessing the Risk for Depression in Cancer Patients
Researchers at Ohio State University directed the study. It included 186 patients with Stage IV non-small-cell lung cancer. The patients had not yet started their cancer treatment.
Although pleural mesothelioma is not the same as non-small cell lung cancer, the two diseases share many of the same characteristics and are often treated similarly. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of lung cancer that is difficult to treat.
The researchers conducted telephone surveys to assess the risk for depression, physical symptoms, and functioning among the lung cancer patients. Based on the responses, they divided the patients into three categories.
The good news is that 64 percent of the patients were either not depressed or only mildly so. But the bad news is that more than a third of the lung cancer patients were more seriously depressed.
Fifty-two patients (28 percent) were moderately depressed and the remaining 15 (8 percent) had symptoms of severe depression. For the 36 percent of patients with moderate to severe depression, treatment – and daily life – appeared to be much harder.
Impacts of Depression in Mesothelioma
The findings suggest that the risk for depression could have far-reaching implications for pleural mesothelioma patients.
The lung cancer patients with moderate to severe depression experienced a host of problems that impacted their lives.
“Depression is just part of what these patients are dealing with,” says Barbara Andersen, PhD, Clinical Professor of Psychology at Ohio State. “It comes with this whole package of worse functioning, more physical symptoms, stress, anxiety and more. All of these can have negative effects on treatment, overall health, quality of life and disease progression.”
Severely depressed patients had more pain and other physical symptoms. They also had trouble with day-to-day functioning. The moderately depressed patients also had symptoms but they were not as severe.
“Some oncologists may have a mindset that ‘of course, you’re depressed, you have lung cancer.’ This may show an under-appreciation of the breadth of depressive symptoms and other difficulties which accompany it,” Andersen said.
Although no one has yet assessed the link between risk for depression and lung cancer treatment outcomes, Dr. Anderson says she expects there is an impact.
The results of this study suggest that depression screening for newly diagnosed pleural mesothelioma patients might be a good idea. If screening identifies patients at high risk for depression, the right interventions might reduce their pain and help maintain their quality of life.
Andersen, BL, et al, “Newly diagnosed patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer: A clinical description of those with moderate to severe depressive symptoms”, December 4, 2019, https://www.lungcancerjournal.info/article/S0169-5002(19)30729-9/fulltext
Grabmeier, Jeff, “Depression affects one-third of lung cancer patients”, December 4, 2019, Ohio State News, https://news.osu.edu/depression-affects-one-third-of-lung-cancer-patients/