Pirl, W.F. (2004). Evidence report on the occurrence, assessment, and treatment of depression in cancer patients. Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, 32, 32–39.doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgh026
To produce an evidence-based report that reviews empirical literature about depression in patients with cancer and focuses on occurrence, assessment, and treatment
The most common intervention for depression is behavioral/cognitive counseling. Because hundreds of articles exist on this topic, the review was limited to several meta-analyses of psychosocial interventions; some measured emotional adjustment or distress rather than depression. All studies cited were conducted prior to 1998. Tools for measuring depression included the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Clinical Global Impression, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Descriptive reports were found on complementary treatments but no randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Authors identified 11 RCTs of medication treatment for depression in patients with cancer. The RCTs included data about 755 patients, an average of 58 patients per study.
Some data support the efficacy of psychosocial and pharmacologic treatments for depression in people with cancer. Studies, using antidepressant medications, that conformed to usual practices for antidepressant trials did demonstrate benefit. (The studies that lasted for fewer than five weeks tended to show less benefit than did longer studies.)
RCTs of alternative or complementary interventions were not found.