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JAMA publication features study on depression and head and neck cancer
Date:5/19/2008

A University of Nebraska Medical Center-led pilot study that showed antidepressants can significantly reduce the risk of depression for head and neck cancer patients is the focus of an article published today in the Archives of Otolaryngolgy -- one of the publications produced by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study, which was led by UNMCs William Lydiatt, M.D., and Bill Burke, M.D., showed that only 15 percent of head and neck cancer patients who took antidepressants as part of their treatment experienced depression. Thats a hopeful sign considering that 50 percent of the patients in the study group who didnt take antidepressants experienced depression.

These statistics offer hope for head and neck cancer patients, said Dr. Lydiatt, division director of head and neck surgical oncology in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, because depression is the number one reason head and neck cancer patients dont complete treatment.

This is a potentially important study and result because it shows for the first time that depression can be prevented for those with head and neck cancer, Dr. Lydiatt said.

The National Institutes of Health seem to agree with Dr. Lydiatts take on the studys importance. After seeing the results of the pilot study, the NIH granted the UNMC team $1.6 million to expand the study.

While head and neck cancer patients represent a fairly small percentage of those with cancer, they do account for an extraordinarily high percentage of cancer-patient suicides, said Dr. Burke, professor of psychiatry.

For example, he said, patients with tongue and larynx cancer compose only 2 percent of all cancer cases but they account for about 20 percent of suicides committed by cancer patients.

A variety of reasons exist for the increased rates of depression in head and neck cancer patients, Dr. Burke said, including arduous treatment regimens; surgery and complications that i
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Contact: Tom O'Connor
toconnor@unmc.edu
402-559-4690
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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