Beating depression for cancer patients

A new treatment programme for cancer patients with depression can significantly boost their quality of life.

This new treatment could substantially improve the way we manage depression in people with cancer.

Professor Michael SharpeDirector of Psychological Medicine Research

University scientists devised the programme which offers patients one-to-one sessions with specially trained cancer nurses.

After three months of receiving the new treatment, almost 20 per cent fewer patients were depressed compared with those who received standard NHS treatment.

The difference was still evident after one year.

Specialist support

The study, published in the Lancet, recruited 200 cancer patients with clinical depression.

Half were given standard care for depression, the other half received the special programme which entailed:

  • sessions on understanding depression and the effects of antidepressants;
  • problem-solving therapy to help overcome feelings of helplessness;
  • liaison between oncologist and GP to collaborate in treatment of depression;
  • monthly monitoring of progress by telephone
  • providing optional “booster” sessions

Patients who were treated in this way also experienced an improvement in anxiety and fatigue.

Ten per cent of cancer patients experience clinical depression and, unfortunately, it is not always adequately treated. This is the first time that this type of depression treatment has been evaluated in cancer patients and the results are very encouraging.

Professor Michael SharpeDirector of Psychological Medicine Research