Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Depression and cancer


It’s all over the news today that there’s insufficient support for people with cancer who suffer from depression.

A total of 3 articles have been released today by The Lancet, The Lancet Oncology and The Lancet Psychiatry. The articles don’t make easy reading for anyone wishing to ensure adequate support for those affected by cancer. They describe a real issue of  major depression going untreated in people with cancer.


The authors screened over 20,000 patients and estimated the prevalence of major depression amongst oncology outpatients. Worryingly the majority of people identified with depression were not receiving any form of treatment associated with that depression. In 2 different trials the authors compare those with depression and no treatment to those who do receive treatment. The results indicate much better outcomes where treatment is provided. These include reduced depression and anxiety but also lower levels of pain and fatigue, and better functioning and quality of life.

If you’ve read our publication Every Step of the Way you’ll remember stories such as those of Brian whose Peer Advocate Bob described how Brian: ” found his condition very hard to accept and suffered bouts of depression and often became upset when speaking about his situation.” 

In another story Ron tells us: “I felt a great sense of confusion, apprehension and got very depressed very quickly. I couldn’t
bring myself to look at the leaflets that I was given because the whole idea of having cancer was terrifying and I had this idea that if I didn’t look at them, it may go away.

The advocacy support provided to both Brian and Ron made a real difference to them. With awareness of depression in cancer patients now raised by the Lancet articles we hope additional support mechanisms will become available to a wider range of cancer patients.

The articles in the Lancet, The Lancet Oncology and The Lancet Psychiatry can be accessed here


Marie McWilliams, National Development Officer, OPAAL



2 thoughts on “Depression and cancer

  1. A few weeks after I was diagnosed with Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma I became depressed. I think it was because I expected to be treated when I was diagnosed. It was a shock at furst when I learnt that I would be on ‘Watch and Wait’ and checked every 6 months by blood tests. It took a while to get my head round this and that is when I became depressed. Fortunately for me I have an excellent GP who recognised the signs and asked me if I was feeling depressed. We discussed it and he gave me Fluanxel for 3 months (after checking me in a months time) and I was fine after that. Having a GP like mine makes all the difference as would an Advocacy supporter. Now I try to get on with my life as much as I can – although I am not without symptoms that get in the way of doing some things. I feel I have to enjoy my life in case it takes a turn for the worse.


    • Many thanks for sharing with us. It’s great to know you have a good GP who is so supportive. With best wishes from all involved in our project


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