Many cancer patients cannot cope with depressive symptoms

31 Jul 2022
Many cancer patients cannot cope with depressive symptoms

A large proportion of cancer patients suffering from depressive symptoms cannot seem to effectively manage this burden on their own, particularly those who tend to avoid dealing with their own problems, reports a recent analysis.

Using two online self-reported surveys, researchers conducted a longitudinal analysis of 107 cancer patients (mean age 60.9 years, 57.9 percent women). While the total burden of depressive symptoms decreased significantly over time at a medium and clinically relevant magnitude, the average depression score remained 11.84 at follow-up, indicative of persistent moderate to severe symptoms.

In particular, loss of interest, depressed moods, sleep problems, appetite disturbances, and fatigue showed marked improvements over time. In contrast, psychomotor problems, concentration difficulties, low self-esteem, and suicidality remained problematic.

At an individual level, nearly half (47.7 percent) of patients said that their depressive symptoms eased, but 37.4 percent noted that their symptoms had not changed, while 15.0 percent even said that it worsened. At follow-up, 64 percent still had moderate to severe symptoms.

Regression analysis controlled for baseline demographics and depressive symptoms showed that adopting less avoidant coping strategies eased depressive symptoms at follow-up. This remained true for all three avoidant coping mechanisms: behavioural disengagement (p=0.001), self-blame (p=0.003), and substance use (p<0.001).

“[P]atients with strong tendencies to use avoidant coping experienced stable high levels or even an increase in depressive symptoms over time, and might benefit from professional psychological care,” the researchers said.

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