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Treatment of depression in adults with cancer: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

  • J. Walker (a1), A. Sawhney (a2), C. Holm Hansen (a2), S. Ahmed (a1), P. Martin (a2), S. Symeonides (a3), G. Murray (a4) and M. Sharpe (a1)...
Abstract
Background

Depression is a leading cause of disease burden worldwide and is especially problematic in people with chronic diseases, including cancer. Although depression can be effectively treated in the general population using antidepressant medication and psychological treatments, these treatments may have different benefits and harms in cancer patients. Previous reviews have not adequately addressed this topic. We therefore aimed to determine which, if any, treatments are effective for patients with diagnoses of both cancer and depression.

Method

We conducted a systematic review of relevant randomized controlled trials identified through searches of Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL).

Results

Seven relatively small trials met the selection criteria. These provided some evidence that antidepressant medication, given alone or in combination with a psychological treatment, may be effective. We found no good evidence for psychological treatments given alone or for any other forms of treatment.

Conclusions

There is very limited evidence from clinical trials to guide the treatment of cancer patients with a diagnosis of depression, especially for psychological treatments. High quality trials of treatments for depression in patients with cancer are urgently needed.

Copyright
Corresponding author
* Address for correspondence: Dr J. Walker, Psychological Medicine Research, University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK. (Email: jane.walker@psych.ox.ac.uk)
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