Depression Common in Lung Cancer and Linked To Mortality Interview with:

Donald R. Sullivan, M.D., M.A. Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Oregon Health & Science University Investigator, VA Portland Health Care System

Dr. Donald Sullivan

Donald R. Sullivan, M.D., M.A.
Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University
Investigator, VA Portland Health Care System What is the background for this study?

Response: There is an inextricably link between physical and mental health, and all too often clinicians focus solely on the physical components of disease. A life-threatening diagnosis such as cancer often evokes significant psychological distress and lung cancer patients are at significantly risk. Up to 44% of lung cancer patients experience depression symptoms and 5-13% major depressive disorder, higher than most other cancers. Previous studies have demonstrated the development of depression or depression symptoms at lung cancer diagnosis can increase patient mortality, but there is a paucity of research exploring how longitudinal changes in depression symptoms impact patient outcomes. What are the main findings?

Response: This study was conducted in a national, representative sample of lung cancer patients in the United States. The major findings from the current study are that depression symptoms are common at lung cancer diagnosis and often persist during lung cancer treatment. A sizable percentage of patients also develop depression symptoms during cancer treatment, which is significant because longitudinal changes in depression symptoms impact patient mortality. Persistent or new onset depression symptoms during cancer treatment was associated with increased mortality, with the predominant effect in patients with early stage disease. Interestingly, remission of depression symptoms from cancer diagnosis to 1-year follow-up was associated with similar mortality as never having depression. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: A lung cancer diagnosis can have lasting effects on patients and the importance of treating the mental as well as the physical aspects of the disease cannot be ignored. The psychological manifestations of lung cancer can significantly impair a patients’ ability to achieve cancer cure. Patients should feel comfortable discussing their mental health with their cancer clinicians and more opportunities for collaborative cancer care should exist. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: While these results cannot prove that depression symptom treatment may confer a mortality benefit, they do suggest the importance of further research to explore the impact of effective mental health among lung cancer patients. Furthermore, the timing of depression screening among lung cancer patients deserves more exploration, including assessments of the prevalence of disease among cancer survivors. Overall, lung cancer research deserves more funding given the tremendous impact of the disease within the United States. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The study was funded by the American Lung Association and National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Longitudinal Changes in Depression Symptoms and Survival Among Patients With Lung Cancer: A National Cohort Assessment
Donald R. Sullivan, Christopher W. Forsberg, Linda Ganzini, David H. Au,Michael K. Gould, Dawn Provenzale and Christopher G. Slatore

Published online before print
October 3, 2016, doi:10.1200/JCO.2016.66.8459JCO October 3, 2016JCO668459

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

More Medical Research Interviews on

[wysija_form id=”5″]

Last Updated on October 5, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD