Mood Disorders May Not Hinder Cancer DiagnosisPsychiatric disorders are believed to be a barrier for appropriate and timely medical care among vulnerable populations.

A new investigation studied if pre-existing depression (with and without anxiety) would influence the time to diagnostically resolve an abnormal mammogram and/or Pap test.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered suffering from depression was not associated with a prolonged time to diagnostic resolution in a vulnerable population of urban women.

Cancer outcomes are influenced by the time to treatment after an abnormal cancer screen. Some studies have found that women with psychiatric disorders are less likely to receive cancer screening and may also have delays in diagnostic resolution after an abnormal screening test.

Vulnerable populations of women, as defined by low income or with racial/ethnic minority status, are less likely to receive standard preventive health care, which contributes to worse breast and cervical cancer outcomes.

Depression is prevalent in these populations, and may lead to worse health care outcomes.

In recognition of these variables, researchers conducted a retrospective chart review of electronic medical records to identify women who had a diagnosis of depression or anxiety in the year prior to the abnormal mammogram or Pap test.

They used time-to-event analysis to analyze the outcome of time to resolution after abnormal cancer screening.

Of the women with abnormal mammogram and Pap tests, the researchers found 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively, suffered with depression.

The time to resolution for the abnormal mammograms and for the abnormal Pap tests were similar for depressed and non-depressed women (median time of 27 days for mammograms and 85 days for Pap tests).

As a result, researchers believe documented mood disorders are not an additional barrier to resolution after an abnormal cancer screening test in this vulnerable population of women who already had barriers to receiving health care.

“Although we found delays in diagnostic resolution after abnormal cancer screening, women with a depression diagnosis did not have increased delays compared to those who were not depressed,” explained lead author Andrea Kronman, M.D., M.Sc.

“Pre-screening the electronic medical records of women for mood disorders may not be the most reliable approach to identify a group of patients at higher risk of delayed diagnostic resolution of abnormal cancer screening tests in a vulnerable population,” added Kronman.

These findings currently appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Source: Boston University Medical Center

Mammogram photo by shutterstock.