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Depression (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Intervention

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Antidepressant Studies

  • In adults, a double-blind placebo-controlled trial comparing fluoxetine with desipramine in treating depressive symptoms in 40 women with cancer found both medications to be effective and well tolerated. There were greater improvements on several quality-of-life measures in patients who received fluoxetine.[9][Level of evidence: I]
  • One study compared paroxetine with amitriptyline in the management of depression in women with breast cancer. Both treatments were equally effective. Paroxetine was associated with significantly fewer anticholinergic adverse effects than amitriptyline.[10][Level of evidence: I]
  • In a randomized controlled trial comparing fluoxetine with a placebo, patients receiving fluoxetine were found to have improved quality of life and decreased depressive symptoms.[11][Level of evidence: I] Using a symptom-based approach (similar to the management of other cancer-related symptoms such as pain or nausea), this study assessed for depression by use of a 2-item screening procedure focused on presence of anhedonia (little interest or pleasure in doing things) and depressed or hopeless mood. Most of the sample consisted of patients with mild-to-moderate levels of depressive symptoms regardless of whether they met the diagnostic criteria for depression. Generalization was enhanced by inclusion of a sample of mixed cancer types (e.g., breast, thoracic, genitourinary, gastrointestinal) from a predominantly community cancer care setting, an equal male/female ratio, and a relatively large sample size (n = 163). A subgroup of patients identified as having higher levels of depressive symptoms was most likely to benefit from the treatment.

Suicide risk of antidepressant medication

Over the past few years, significant concerns have been raised about the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior with the use of antidepressants in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since 2003, U.S. and European regulators have issued several public health warnings on this topic. The first such advisory issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned about a possible association between antidepressants and suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents. In December 2003, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency of the United Kingdom issued a letter to doctors advising against the use of antidepressants in anyone younger than 18 years.[12] In October 2004, the FDA mandated pharmaceutical companies to add a "black box" warning to the labeling of all antidepressants suggesting increased risk of suicidality in pediatric patients who were taking antidepressants. The FDA revised this boxed warning in May 2007 to include young adults younger than 25 years.[13] The new, carefully worded warning emphasizes that the risk of suicidality is associated with both antidepressants and depression. In addition to raising concerns about increased suicidality in children, adolescents, and young adults, the warning acknowledges a significant protective effect of antidepressants in adults aged 65 and older.

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