A new report in the November 15 issue of Cancer analyzed 26 studies that looked at how depression influences cancer progression and survival rates.
Cancer patients who experienced depression were at higher risk for dying. The increased risk was as high as 25% for mild symptoms and 39% for those diagnosed with clinical depression.
This study points to the importance of social support and complementary care, whether psychological, spiritual/religious, or mind-body interventions like yoga, meditation, and exercise. All of these have been shown to improve a sense of control, hope, or meaning during an experience that can feel dehumanizing, uncontrollable, and frightening.
The authors of the report are quick to point out that cancer patients should not be pressured into some forced kind of "positive thinking" or discouraged from feeling and expressing negative emotions.
Study citation: Jillian R. Satin, Wolfgang Linden, and Melanie J. Phillips. Depression as a predictor of disease progression and mortality in cancer patients: a meta-analysis. Cancer, 2009; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24561