Pharmacopsychiatry 2003; 36 - 276
DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-825519

Psychopharmacological treatment in cancer patients – Interactions between biological and psychological variables?

B Sperner-Unterweger 1, C Kohl 1, V Meraner 1, B Holzner 1, T Bodner 1, G Kemmler 1
  • 1University Clinics Innsbruck, Department of Biological Psychiatry, Innsbruck, Austria

Background: In the course of their disease, cancer patients sometimes suffer from psychiatric symptoms. Rates of psychiatric diagnoses in this patient group range from 6% to 40%. The most frequently reported symptoms belong to syndromes of depression and anxiety. Depressive syndromes have been shown as key variables causing an impairment in quality of life. Furthermore, depression may also represent a possible risk factor for the outcome of cancer.

Methods: Women with gynaecological cancer were assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety. A group of these women suffering from ovarian cancer were followed during a period of chemotherapy. Tryptophan levels were analysed at baseline and three moths after chemotherapy.

Results and Conclusion: Preliminary analyses show significant differences of depressive symptoms within the patient group. More and more pronounced symptoms were found in women with advanced cancer.

Recommendations for the antidepressant treatment in cancer patients need to take the following aspects into consideration:

Interaction with cancer therapy; pathophysiological conditions of cancer disease; side effects of antidepressive medication.