Colorectal Cancer Recovery Affected by Mental Health

Depression and anxiety strongly influences the success of cancer treatment.

Patients with colorectal cancer who also suffered from depression at diagnosis have lesser odds of a smooth post-surgery recovery process.

A new study focused on the importance of mental health in cancer recovery and the “need to cater for each patient’s individual needs before, during, and long after his treatment has finished.”

Researchers from Macmillan Cancer Support and the University of Southampton, UK, followed the lives of at least 1000 colorectal cancer patients treated across 29 UK hospitals. The study involved the time frame prior to surgery in 2010 to 2012, to at least 5 years after surgery.

The research team showcased how they used health, quality of life, and well-being indicators (such as difficulty walking around or confinement to the bed) to gauge post-treatment recovery in the two years after colorectal cancer surgery.

The study highlighted that one in five colorectal cancer patients are also depressed at the time of diagnosis, and that they are seven times more likely to be in “very poor health” two years after the end of treatment.

Additionally, the study revealed that “patients with depression are also 13 times more likely to have very poor quality of life, including, for example, experiencing problems with thinking and memory, or with sexual functioning.”

According to Jane Maher, PhD, joint chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, mental health can be a barrier to a good recovery. “We know that depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with cancer, but now we can see the extent to which people are struggling to live with these illnesses,” she said.

The study authors stressed the importance of doctors asking their cancer patients about other illnesses or worries to ensure mental health issues don’t get overlooked.