About 30 to 40 percent of people will experience significant distress after learning that they have cancer, according to James C. Coyne, Ph.D, director of the Behavioral Oncology Program at the Abramson Cancer Center and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. But it tends to resolve after three or four months, he said.
Clinical depression, however, affects about 16 percent of cancer patients, according to a 2011 study published in The Lancet Oncology. Researchers analyzed 94 studies with more than 14,000 patients. Depression was especially common — with 30 to 40 percent of patients affected — when other mood disorders were present.
Depression also appears to affect people with certain cancers to a greater degree, such as oropharyngeal (22–57 percent), pancreatic (33–50 percent), breast (2–46 percent) and lung cancers (11–44 percent), according to Derek Hopko, Ph.D, associate professor at The University of Tennessee and co-author of A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Overcoming Depression and Anxiety: Getting Through Treatment and Getting Back to Your Life.
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