January 13, 2016
Depression shortens head and neck cancer survival time, increases recurrence
BY Clayton Boldt, Ph.D.
Depression significantly impacts five-year survival and recurrence in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new MD Anderson study. Published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the study’s findings represent one of the largest reported impacts of depression on cancer survival.
Led by Eileen Shinn, Ph.D., assistant professor of Behavioral Science, the study followed 130 patients newly diagnosed with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, a type of head and neck cancer that originates at the back of the throat and base of the tongue.
At the beginning of treatment, study participants completed a questionnaire to identify whether or not they were clinically depressed.
“Those scoring as depressed were three-and-one-half times less likely to have survived five years after treatment began,” Shinn said, “compared to those who were not depressed. Furthermore, depressed participants had a four-and-a-half higher risk of recurrence than non-depressed patients.”
While caution should be exercised in generalizing these results to other cancer types, the study does suggest that screening for depression in head and neck cancer patients may be beneficial, Shinn says.
Learn more about depression’s role in head and neck cancer on MD Anderson’s website.