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Research shows how depression affects cancer patients

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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This is perhaps one of those things that doctors and laypeople alike understood before the research was done: people who are struggling with depression are going to be less responsive to chemotherapy and less tolerant of the side-effects of those drugs. While intuition and logic tell us that the statement is true, there is now a study that backs it with scientific evidence.

According to researchers, cancer patients who also suffer from depression have lower-than-normal amounts of a crucial protein in their blood. The decreased presence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) makes it more difficult for them to respond well to chemotherapy and less able to cope with side-effects.

The presence of either cancer or depression can often make it impossible for a person to continue working. Obviously, the combination of the two conditions can be overwhelming.

A lead author of the study looking at how depression affects lung cancer patients says “it’s crucial doctors pay more attention to the mood and emotional state of patients.”

Unfortunately, depression is not uncommon among cancer patients. It can be especially problematic among terminal patients and among those who have had their cancer spread to multiple organs.

According to the study, severe depression shortens the time that patients have before the cancer worsens.

Researchers likewise found that BDNF increases the number of cancer cells killed by chemotherapy. A reduced presence of BDNF made the treatment less effective and lowered the patient’s chances of winning the battle with cancer.

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