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Stigma, Shame Worsen Depression in Lung Cancer Patients

31 March, 2012

TAMPA FLA: Feelings of shame, social isolation and rejection can heighten depression in lung cancer patients, a new study finds.

The findings may help explain why depression is more common among lung cancer patients than among patients with other kinds of cancer, according to the researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.

"Given its strong association with tobacco use, lung cancer is commonly viewed as a preventable disease," study co-author Paul Jacobsen said in a Moffitt news release. "

Consequently, patients may blame themselves for developing lung cancer and feel stigmatized. Even lung cancer patients who have never smoked often felt accurately or inaccurately that they were being blamed for their disease by friends, loved ones and even health-care professionals."

For the study, the researchers gave mental-health questionnaires to lung cancer patients and found that 38 percent of them suffered from depression. Greater levels of perceived stigma were associated with greater levels of depression.

The findings suggest that psychotherapeutic approaches might be useful in treating or preventing depression in lung cancer patients, study co-author Brian Gonzalez said.

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