bowel cancer patients at risk of depression

A new study carried out by the University of Southampton has revealed that bowel cancer patients are at risk of clinical depression after treatment. Shockingly, results also show that the depression can last for up to five years, and in some cases, it can be an ongoing issue.

Here, we will look at what the study found, and the importance of seeking help for the condition.

What did the study reveal?

A total of 872 adults were surveyed as part of the latest study funded by Macmillan Cancer Support. Each of the patients had non-metastatic colorectal cancer. They were asked to complete a survey prior to the surgery, then again at follow-up intervals for a total period of 60 months.

Around 21% of patients reported significant depression prior to the surgery. After five years, this decreased to 14% of patients. The study also revealed that the risk of suffering from clinical depression after surgery was dependant on the following factors:

  • Existing depression or anxiety prior to the surgery
  • Low confidence in their ability to manage the illness
  • A lack of social support
  • Prior mental health service use
  • Poor health

Each of these factors were found to play a role in ongoing clinical depression after surgery. In particular, it found that those living with bowel cancer who have a lack of social support, are 2.5 times more likely to suffer depression.

Having social support is key to combating the illness. Out of the participants in the study who had good social support, 16% of them developed depression. Around 37% of participants who didn’t have good social support developed the condition.

Why the pandemic might have worsened the problem

The research carried out by University of Southampton was done before the pandemic hit. Experts fear that the lockdowns and social isolation may have worsened the problem. The researchers are once again working with the Macmillan Cancer Trust to carry out an additional study into the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients.

So far, interim results show that a staggering 81% of cancer patients have stayed at home at all times throughout the pandemic. Half of respondents also reported suffering at least a couple of negative psychological impacts such as depression and anxiety, during the lockdowns.

The importance of seeking help

Going through cancer treatment can be terrifying, and it is understandably many patients may go on to develop depression. However, help is available, and experts are urging patients to seek professional help if they are struggling with their mental health.

Clinical depression is a risk for cancer patients. The latest research has also shown that those undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy for bowel cancer have an increased risk. If patients are worried about their mental health, we urge them not to suffer alone. There is help and treatments available to help ease the symptoms and improve quality of life.