Survivors of Head and Neck Cancer

Aug 17, 2013
Few Survivors of Head and Neck Cancer Utilizing Mental Health Services Despite Depression

Mental health services appear to be underutilized despite depression among survivors of head and neck cancer, according to a study published Online First by JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The long-term physical effects of radiation therapy (RT) for head and neck cancer have been well described but few studies have examined psychosocial functioning, including depression, among patients, according to the study background.

Allen M. Chen, M.D., of the University of California, Davis, and now of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues examined the prevalence of self-reported depression among survivors of head and neck cancer returning for follow-up after RT treatment.

The study included 211 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, who had been treated and were disease-free with at least one year of follow-up. A questionnaire was used to analyze rates of depression.

The proportion of patients who reported their mood as “somewhat depressed” or “extremely depressed” was 17 percent, 15 percent and 13 percent at one, three and five years, respectively. Among the patients who reported their mood as either “somewhat depressed” or “extremely depressed,” at one, three and five years, respectively, the proportion of patients using antidepressants was 6 percent, 11 percent and 0 percent, respectively.

The proportion of patients actively undergoing or seeking psychotherapy and/or counseling was 3 percent, 6 percent and 0 percent, respectively, according to study results.

“Despite a relatively high rate of depression among patients with head and neck cancer in the post-RT setting, mental health services are severely underutilized,” the study concludes.

(JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online August 15, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.4072.