Cancer Treatment’s Side Effects On Mental Health: Anxiety & Depression Medication Common Among Survivors

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 28, 03:49 am
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A new study found that there's an uptick in anxiety and depression medication among cancer survivors. Patients who usually use antidepressants are under 65 years old, are whites, have public insurance and source for medical care, and have multiple chronic health problems.
(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Cancer survivors tend to have issues with their mental health after undergoing treatment for the disease. A new study found that there's an uptick in anxiety and depression medication among cancer survivors in the United States.

The study, which was published this week in the Journal of Online Oncology, found that among more than 3,000 adult cancer survivors, 19 percent took medication for anxiety, depression or both mental issues, UPI reported. When the research team examined almost 45,000 adults who didn't have cancer, only one in 10 used medications for anxiety and depression such as Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Prozac and Benzodiazepine.

Nikki Hawkins, the study's lead author and a behavioral scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the research indicates that cancer "can take a serious psychological and emotional toll for many years, even after treatment is complete," UPI further reported. The percentage means that one in five cancer survivors (or around 2.5 million individuals) take medications for anxiety and depression.

The study also found that it's not just newer cancer patients who use medications for anxiety and depression. Survivors who had cancer ten or more years ago also use these medications more. Patients who usually use antidepressants are under 65 years old, are whites, have public insurance and source for medical care, and have multiple chronic health problems.

Kevin Stein, vice president of the American Cancer Society's Behavioral Research Center, said anxiety and depression have huge impacts on a patient's quality of life and survival. Stein said that anxiety and depression can be treated with a combination of medications and interventions such as stress management training.

Stein, however, acknowledged that they "need to do a better job of understanding who's at risk for anxiety and depression, and we need to intervene early." He recommended physicians to screen cancer patients or survivors for anxiety and depression by asking them how distressed they are.

Afterward, these cancer patients or survivors should be referred to mental health services. Patients, in turn, should also do their part by speaking up and asking for professional help.

Hawkins said that cancer survivors "might feel uneasy or stigmatized talking about the toll cancer takes on their emotions," but their psychological health needs the same level of attention and care as their physical well-being. Cancer patients or survivors can cope with psychological stress through cancer education sessions, exercise, counseling or talk therapy, and social support in a group setting, the National Cancer Institute listed.

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