In Breast Cancer Survivors, Depression Lingers

What You Need to Know: Women who survive breast cancer face a higher risk of depression that can linger, according to a new study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The Study: Researchers in Copenhagen looked at data on nearly two million Danish women between 1998 and 2011, all of whom were initially free of cancer. During the study period, they found 44,494 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • The risk of having to check into a hospital for severe depression was 70 percent higher for the breast cancer patients in the first year after diagnosis than their cancer-free peers. The breast cancer patients were also three times more likely to use antidepressants during the first year after diagnosis.
  • The women diagnosed with breast cancer used antidepressants more than their peers up to eight years after their diagnosis. The researchers found that patients at highest risk included women aged 70 or older, those with node-positive breast cancer, and those with other serious health problems. The type of surgery or treatment had no effect on depression risk.

“Cancer is feared, as it may metastasize, recur, and even kill you,” lead researcher Christoffer Johansen, M.D., of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen, told HealthDay.

My Take:  Cancer can be a frightening disease, and many patients become overwhelmed when facing it. Treatment may also induce depression. Some individuals become overwhelmed, and become depressed. Approximately 20 percent of cancer patients experience a clinical depression during the first five years as cancer survivors. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Suppli, Nis P., et al. “Increased Risk for Depression After Breast Cancer: A Nationawide Population-Based Cohort Study of Associated Factors in Denmark, 1998-2011.” Journal of Clinical Oncology. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.54.0419. October 27, 2014.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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