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Anxiety and Depression Medicine Use Among Cancer Survivors

Cancer survivors in the United States take medicine for anxiety or depression at about twice the rate of people without a history of cancer.

Many people who are diagnosed with cancer have feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, and depression. These feelings can be caused by fear of suffering or death, changes in social roles, the pain caused by cancer or its treatments, or a personal history of depression or anxiety. If left untreated for a long time, anxiety and depression can lower cancer survivors’ quality of life.

CDC scientists used responses to the National Health Interview Survey for the years 2010 to 2013 to see the percentage of people who said they take medicine for anxiety or depression. The scientists compared the percentage of cancer survivors in this group to the percentage of people who never had cancer.

Key Findings

In the United States, between 2010 and 2013—

  • About 17% of cancer survivors took medicine for anxiety, 14% took medicine for depression, and 19% took medicine for both.
  • About 9% of people who never had cancer took medicine for anxiety, 8% took medicine for depression, and 10% took medicine for both.
  • About 2.5 million cancer survivors were taking medicine for anxiety or depression.
  • Cancer survivors were more likely to take medicine for anxiety or depression if they were younger than 65 years old, female, non-Hispanic white, had a usual source of medical care, or had another chronic health problem (such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes).
  • Cancer survivors who were widowed, divorced, or separated were more likely to take medicine for depression.
  • It is important to note that information about when survivors began medication is not available. Also, it is not possible to conclude that the medication use was because of the cancer diagnosis, or whether those who reported medication use were formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression.

Citation

Hawkins NA, Soman A, Buchanan Lunsford N, Leadbetter S, Rodriguez JL. Use of medications for treating anxiety and depression in cancer survivors in the United States. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2016.

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