Cancer News

Depressive Symptoms Linked to Shorter Survival in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

CancerConnect News:  In a study of patients with head and neck cancer, even mild depressive symptoms were associated with poorer overall survival according to a team of doctors from the University of Louisville who published their findings in Cancer the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Globally, head and neck cancer (HNC) comprises the seventh most common type of cancer with an estimated 400,000-600,000 diagnoses every year. 2017 saw significant advances in understanding the role of Human Papilloma Virus in head and neck cancers and breakthrough advances in treatment with precision medicines that help the immune system recognize and attack cancer.  The findings from the current study however indicate that patients should be screened carefully for depressive symptoms at the time of diagnosis and offered treatment when appropriate.

Patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer often experience symptoms of depression, which can make it difficult for them to manage treatment side effects, quit smoking, or maintain adequate nutrition or sleep habits. In the current study the doctors were interested to see if depressive symptoms might affect patients’ health outcomes.

The researchers studied 134 patients with head and neck cancers who reported depressive symptoms during the planning of their treatment. When the investigators examined the patients’ clinical data over the following two years, they found that patients with greater depressive symptoms had shorter survival, higher rates of treatment interruption, and poorer treatment response. The doctors also reported that patients with depressive symptoms suffered greater two-year overall mortality rates, most commonly in individuals who did not achieve optimal response to medical treatment.

The researchers are hopeful that the information from this study will facilitate discussions between patients and their treating physicians about depression, its symptoms, and the need to seek help to ensure they receive the best outcomes from treatment of head and neck cancer.

Reference: Depressive symptoms predict head and neck cancer survival: examining plausible behavioral and biological pathways.” Lauren A. Zimmaro, Sandra E. Sephton, Chelsea Siwik, Kala Phillips, Whitney N. Rebholz, Helena C. Kraemer, Janine Giese-Davis, Liz Wilson, Jeffrey M. Bumpous, and Elizabeth Cash. CANCER; Published Online: January 22, 2018 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.31109).

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