A new study, from researchers at Macmillan Cancer Support and the University of Southampton in England, shows that cancer patients with depression struggle to get their lives back after treatment.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study shows that one in five colorectal cancer patients are depressed at the time of diagnosis.
These people are seven times more likely to have “very poor health,” which could include things like severe difficulty with walking around or being confined to bed two years after treatment has ended, compared to those without depression, according to the study’s findings.
They are also 13 times more likely to have “very poor quality of life,” which could include problems with thinking and memory or sexual functioning, researchers reported.
Previous research has shown that more than half a million people who have received a cancer diagnosis are also living with a mental health issue, such as depression.
For the latest study, researchers are following the lives of more than a 1,000 colorectal cancer patients from before surgery until at least five years afterwards. It assesses their recovery by measuring indicators of health, quality of life, and wellbeing.
“This research tells us that having depression has an enormous impact on how people live after their cancer treatment,” said Professor Jane Maher, Joint Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support.
“In fact, it affects their recovery more than whether or not they’ve been diagnosed early. We know that depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with cancer, but now we can see the extent to which people are struggling to live with these illnesses.
“Colorectal cancer can have some difficult physical consequences, such as incontinence and sexual difficulties — it’s more than enough for anyone to have to deal with,” she continued. “Mental health issues can be a real barrier to people getting better.”
She noted that people can live well after cancer, but only it they get the right support.
“This is a stark reminder that every cancer patient is different and so many people are living with many issues on top of coping with cancer,” she said.
“As healthcare professionals we need to consider each person’s individual needs to ensure they get the best support possible. And not just while they’re going through treatment, but for many years afterwards.”