Dr. Bardwell on Cancer-Related Variables and Depression

Dr. Wayne Bardwell from UCSD Cancer Center on Cancer-Related Variables and Depression

Wayne A. Bardwell, PhD, MBA, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, director, Patient & Family Support Service, Doris Howell Service Moores, University of California, San Diego, Cancer Center, discusses his research into the connection between objective cancer-related variables and depression symptoms in breast cancer patients.

The depression symptoms analysis was completed as part of the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study that examined the effects of dietary intervention on 3088 women following the completion of treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Data was collected before and after the introduction of the dietary intervention and tested against 27 potential risk factors that predict depression. Each factor was measured using various instruments that were selected based on social cognitive theory.

The results of the study were counterintuitive. Objective cancer-related factors, such as intensity of treatment and length of time from diagnosis, as well as health-related factors, such as side effects and physical activity, did not play a role in developing depression. The lead cause of depression stemmed from psychosocial factors such as insomnia, support groups, and being comfortable expressing feelings. These psychosocial issues are very similar to the cause of depression in the general population.

The trial concluded that depressive symptoms are not associated with objective cancer-related factors but are connected to subjective psychosocial variables.