Cancer of the esophagus is often diagnosed at a late stage and is related to severe morbidity and a low 5-year survival rate.
Previous studies have reported low health-related quality of life and high suicide rates for these patients.
The occurrence of psychiatric morbidity and thus the potential need for psychological support may vary over time after diagnosis.
This has not been adequately studied in patients with newly diagnosed cancer of the esophagus or gastro-esophageal junction.
|42% had scores indicating probable depression|
|Diseases of the Esophagus|
Drs Bergquist and Hammerlid from Sweden prospectively evaluated the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in 94 consecutive patients with all stages of disease.
Psychiatric morbidity was evaluated with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire at inclusion and 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12 months later.
The team found at inclusion, that 42% of the patients had scores indicating possible or probable anxiety disorder and/or depression.
At all follow-ups except at 3 months, proportions of patients with possible/probable anxiety disorder were significantly lower than at inclusion.
The research team also assessed patients with a duration of tumor-specific symptoms exceeding 6 months pre-diagnosis.
Within this group, the team noted larger proportions of patients with a possible/probable anxiety disorder at the 1- and 6-month follow ups.
The researchers found the prevalence of possible/probable depression was greater among patients treated with a palliative intent than among those with a curative intent at inclusion.
The research team observed that patients who died during the study period scored worse for depression compared to the survivors.
Apart from this, the proportion of patients with possible/probable psychiatric morbidity was relatively stable over time.
The team also found that morbidity was unrelated to patient characteristics or clinical background, including the treatment regime.
Dr Bergquist and colleague concluded, "Psychiatric morbidity is common among esophageal cancer patients, both at inclusion and over time, regardless of the cancer therapy given."
"The findings stress the importance of monitoring the patients' mental health and of offering adequate psychological care when needed."