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How Depression Impacts Survival Time for Lung Cancer Patients

mesothelioma_treatmentAfter people are diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease, it is understandable that they would develop depression. This is not a run-of-the-mill case of the blues, but a persistent feeling of despair, hopelessness and inability to enjoy life that can prevent someone from taking part in the world around him or her.

Patients who have lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure are also at risk of depression. If this condition is not addressed effectively, patients may find it difficult to maintain personal relationships or engage in everyday activities.

Additionally, if depression interferes with an individual’s commitment to medical treatment, his or her illness may progress quickly.

At Kazan Law, we want to make sure all of your needs – physical, emotional and mental – are taken care of. When you are undergoing treatment for lung cancer resulting from exposure to asbestos, it is important to be aware of whether or not you have developed depression so you can treat it properly.

What causes depression?
Experts from the National Cancer Institute estimate that 25 percent of cancer patients develop depression. Certain factors can make some individuals more vulnerable than others. These variables can be divided between those that are related to the cancer, and those that are not.

Those that are linked to the disease include:

  • Pain that is not well-controlled.
  • A case of advanced illness.
  • Physical weakness.
  • Certain types of medication.

Factors independent of the disease are:

  • A personal or family history of depression.
  • A weak social support system.
  • Stress caused by other events in life not related to the cancer.

Depression hurts quality of life
One team of scientists from Mexico decided to investigate the effects of depression on individuals who had advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer. Specifically, they wanted to know how depression and anxiety impacted the prognosis, treatment adherence and health-related quality of life (HRQL).

For their study, the researchers enrolled 82 subjects diagnosed with stage IIIB or stage IV disease. All participants underwent a series of psychiatric health assessments before treatment, then again at the three-month and six-month marks following the initiation of treatment. In order to record treatment adherence, the scientists kept track of how many clinical consultations the patients missed.

Results showed that approximately 33 and 34 percent of subjects had depression and anxiety, respectively. Depression was more likely among females and those who had poor performance status.

Other results showed that subjects who were depressed had a median survival time of 6.8 months, compared to 14 months for those who did not experience depression. Additionally, 58 percent of depressed subjects had poor treatment adherence, while the same was true for only 42 percent of non-depressed patients.

“Depression and anxiety were present in one-third of patients with recently diagnosed NSCLC. Depression and anxiety were associated with decreased HRQL scales, and depression was independently associated with treatment adherence and with poor prognosis,” the researchers wrote in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

There is help for depression
The Environmental Working Group estimates that lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure claims the lives of 4,800 individuals in the U.S. every year. That figure is expected to increase during the next 10 years or so.

These trends underscore the importance of identifying and treating depression effectively among lung cancer patients.

Experts from the NCI say that if you have a hard time accepting your cancer status after a long time following your diagnosis or lose interest in activities that were once enjoyable, you may have depression. You should immediately discuss these symptoms with your healthcare team.

Once your doctors are aware of your condition, they may recommend counseling or medication. Remember that depression remedies, whether they are prescribed or bought over the counter, can interact with your cancer therapy and should only be used under the supervision of your healthcare team.

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