Depression in Latina survivors of breast cancer affects preventive health screening

Authors

  • Carrie Printz


Latina survivors of breast cancer were more depressed than Hispanics in the general population, and they were not following recommendations to continue their other cancer screening behaviors, according to research presented at the Fourth American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, held in Washington, DC from September 18 through September 21, 2011.

Because depression can make people more inattentive to their health, depressed individuals are more likely to ignore recommendations to reduce their cancer risk, according to Amelie Ramirez, DrPh, founding director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Depression is more common among patients with breast cancer than among the general population, and 10% of all new cancers are diagnosed in cancer survivors. With those statistics in mind, Dr. Ramirez and colleagues examined the extent of depression among a group of 117 Latina survivors of breast cancer to assess the barriers that were interfering with preventive health screening for colorectal and ovarian cancers. They found that these survivors were more depressed than Hispanics in the general population and that they were not following recommendations to continue screening. Among the women surveyed, only 5 had been screened for both colorectal and ovarian cancers and approximately 60% had not been screened for either cancer.

Depression was associated with noncompliance for ovarian cancer screening but not with noncompliance for colorectal cancer screening. The only factor associated with noncompliance for colorectal cancer screening was a marital status of “single.” Meanwhile, multiple other factors, including an inability to understand English, the high price of care, unemployment, and no familial history of cancer were associated with noncompliance for ovarian cancer screening.

Dr. Ramirez suggests the following steps for combating the problem:

  • Help Latina survivors of breast cancer understand the importance of becoming more involved in their health care.

  • Learn more about the underpinnings of depression among cancer survivors.

  • Understand the emotional challenges and cultural influences that exist and design more specific messages for people struggling with depression.

  • Ensure that patients not only receive necessary follow-up treatment but also be screened for depression.

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