Cancer and depression – is the system lacking?
The Lancet recently published research that suggests the answer is no, due to the fact that 75% of those suffering from clinical depression aren’t getting any psychological therapy or counselling even when they request it.
Research seems to show that the focus on physical needs means that cancer patients with depression are having their mental health requirements overlooked and this in turn means that the treatment costs are considerably higher in the long run.
In fact bearing in mind how much is spent on cancer drugs it is estimated that it would take just under a 0.5% increase in the budget to treat all those struggling with the anguish depression causes.
Part of the problem is the general belief that depressive symptoms are all part of the course with cancer. Research suggests though that actually unlike the temporary sadness that a cancer diagnosis naturally brings there are very large numbers of patients suffering from deeper lying major depression that often carries on long beyond the cancer itself.
At any one time it is estimated that 2% of the general population will be suffering from clinical depression but when looking at cancer patients as a demographic the rates rise to up to 13%. Symptoms can be as debilitating as any physical problem and regularly present in forms such as sleep deprivation and mal-nutrition.
What seems even more shocking is that although most people will never be diagnosed as suffering from depression, even when a diagnosis is made the normal forms of basic NHS treatment seem to be having little effect.
Scientists are now suggesting that a new approach should be implemented, one designed specifically for cancer sufferers and their findings so far seem to back up the efficacy of such an approach.
In a recent study of 500 patients receiving such counselling, just over 60% described their depressive symptoms as reduced by at least half. This is in contrast to the current NHS treatments that report improvements at such levels in just 17% of patients.
Designed by cancer specialists in conjunction with psychotherapists the new approach is specifically tailored to the needs of cancer patients and includes nutrition advice, problem solving skills and pain management counselling alongside traditional forms of therapy.
It appears that quality of life is improved regardless of cancer prognosis and it is now widely believed that if it was rolled out nationally it would improve the lives of thousands of patients.
It is estimated that the cost of therapy would be £600 per person which would represent a tiny fraction of the cost of any cancer treatment the individual may be having.