The University of Liverpool made the following announcement:

Depression Found To Hasten Decline In Cancer Patients

Depression causes patients with advanced cancer to die sooner than they
should, say scientists at the University of Liverpool.

In a six-month study patients who were found to be depressed had a 7%
increased chance of dying and this percentage increased depending on the
severity of the depression. Depression is common in patients with
advanced cancer and in a significant number of patients it is persistent.

The researchers examined symptoms and mood in patients using a screening
method originally devised for postnatal mothers, containing questions on
worthlessness, subjective sadness and suicidal thoughts as well as
questions about symptoms and pain. Depression affected 29% of patients
at the initial screening and 54.5% of surviving patients remained
depressed eight weeks later.

Professor Mari Lloyd-Williams from the School of Population, Community
and Behavioural Sciences said: “Previous research has shown that stroke
patients who were depressed did not regain function as well as other
patients and they had a higher risk of dying – all patients who have
suffered a stroke are now screened for depression but this is not the
case for patients at any stage of cancer.

“We know that a patient’s mental state affects their physical state but
not enough is known about why this happens. We believe that when someone
is depressed they lose motivation and therefore the will to live.

“Depression affects 25% of patients with advanced cancer but at this
stage it is difficult to diagnose. Whilst patients with advanced cancer
are clearly very ill they can still be effectively treated for
depression but the first step in the treatment is the recognition that
the patient is depressed.”

Professor Lloyd-Williams and her team have been awarded £2.5 million to
carry out further research in palliative care. They are currently
working on a larger study of more than 400 patients to identify what
emotional and psychological health problems cancer patients experiencing
in order to better understand their mental health needs and how to
improve their primary care.

The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading
research-intensive institutions in the UK.

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