Depression After Cancer Keeps Some From Follow-Up Care

FRIDAY Sept. 23, 2011 -- New research suggests that depression and other factors may keep Hispanic women who have survived breast cancer from getting screenings that could pick up signs of colorectal or ovarian cancer.

"Depression can make people more inattentive to potential risks to their health and more likely to ignore recommendations to reduce their risk," said study researcher Amelie G. Ramirez, professor and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Ramirez and colleagues wanted to understand how problems like depression, which is more common among breast cancer patients than the general population, might affect cancer screening. Ten percent of new cancers appear in people who have already had the disease.

The researchers surveyed 117 Hispanic breast cancer survivors and screened them for depression. About one-third met the criteria for depression. Only five women had been screened for both cancers; about 60 percent hadn't been checked for one or the other cancer.

The research linked depression to a lower rate of ovarian cancer screening, but there was no link between depression and less colorectal cancer screening. Other factors affecting ovarian cancer screening included a lack of English language skills, high costs of health care, unemployment and lack of relatives with cancer. Being single boosted the risk that the women didn't get screened for colorectal cancer.

"Regardless of depression . . . we need to work with these women to help them understand that they need to get more involved with their health care," Ramirez said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "We also have to get a better handle on the underpinnings of depression among cancer survivors. We have to ask the critical questions to make sure that these patients are not only getting the follow-up treatment they need, but also are screening for depression."

The study findings were released Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, in Washington D.C.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more about breast cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Posted: September 2011


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