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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • stigma;
  • depression;
  • psychological distress

Abstract

Objective

Cancer patients are more likely to experience depression than the general population. This study aims to evaluate the possible association between cancer stigma and depression among cancer patients.

Methods

As a part of the Korean government's program to develop comprehensive supportive care, we conducted a nationwide survey in 2010 at the National Cancer Center and in nine regional cancer centers across Korea. Cancer stigma was assessed by using a set of 12 questions grouped in three domains—impossibility of recovery, stereotypes of cancer patients, and experience of social discrimination. Depression was measured by using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Results

A total of 466 cancer patients were included in the study. Over 30% of the cancer survivors had negative attitudes toward cancer and held stereotypical views of themselves: about 10% of the participants experienced social discrimination due to cancer, and 24.5% reported clinically significant depressive symptoms. Patients who had or experienced cancer stigma were 2.5 times more likely to have depression than patients with positive attitudes.

Conclusions

Regardless of highly developed medical science and increased survivorship, cancer survivors had cancer stigmas, and it was significantly associated with depression.

Impact

Our findings emphasize the need for medical societies and health professionals to pay more attention to cancer stigma that patients are likely to experience during treatment. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.