Depression Treatment Underutilized in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

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Depression Treatment Underutilized in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors
Depression Treatment Underutilized in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

(HealthDay News) -- For post-radiotherapy survivors of head and neck cancer, depression is fairly common, but treatment is underutilized, according to research published online Aug. 15 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Allen M. Chen, M.D., from the University of California in Davis, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis involving 211 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, who had been previously treated with radiotherapy, to determine the prevalence of self-reported depression. Rates of depression were analyzed using the self-administered University of Washington Quality of Life Instrument.

The researchers observed no difference in the mean mood score at one, three, and five years after treatment. At 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively, 17%, 15%, and 13% of patients reported their mood as somewhat or extremely depressed. The presence of tracheostomy tube or laryngeal stoma, gastrostomy tube dependence, and continued smoking at follow-up correlated significantly with post-radiotherapy depression.

At 1, 3, and 5 years of follow-up, the proportion of those who were somewhat or extremely depressed and were using antidepressants was 6%, 11%, and 0%, respectively, while 3%, 6%, and 0%, respectively, were actively undergoing psychotherapy and/or counseling.

"Despite a relatively high rate of depression among patients with head and neck cancer in the post-radiotherapy setting, mental health services are severely underutilized," the authors write.

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