Things are Getting Brighter

depressionCancer treatment and depression go hand-in-hand. In fact, this belief was previously so entrenched in the health care community that it was viewed as an unfortunate, yet unchangeable fact. Today – although depression remains a major challenge for cancer patients – there are now many effective depression treatments available to improve the quality of life during and after cancer treatment. In other words, depression does not have to be the grim shadow of cancer treatment.

As part of the comprehensive care for a cancer patient, current “best practices” call for depression to be screened for, then treatment to be initiated (via pharmacologic, psychological, and collaborative care interventions).

This unique intersection of caring for patients with depression in the oncology setting offers patients significant value in improved quality of life in what is, for many, the most challenging time of their lives. Each patient should receive an individualized plan, based on their symptom severity, functional impairment, and safety assessment. Interestingly, even the initial act of conducting a distress and depression screening (e.g., a diagnostic interview) is often reported by patients to be therapeutic in and of itself – since it provides what may be the first opportunity to give voice to their experience.


Li M, Kennedy EB, Byrne N, et al. Management of depression in patients with cancer: a clinical practice guideline. J Oncol Prac doi:10.1200/JOP.2016.011072

McFarland D, Lahijani S, Holland J. Managing depression in patients with cancer. Oncology 2016;30(7):665-71.

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