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Bowel cancer patients lacking in emotional support three times more likely to have clinical depression

Macmillan Cancer Support and the University of Southampton have surveyed bowel cancer patients before and after surgery to find out about their emotional needs

Bowel cancer patients who lack emotional support are almost three times more likely to have clinical depression, a study has found.


The study found it was important for nurses to provide support throughout
treatment and recovery of bowel cancer and not just at the start. Picture: iStock

The University of Southampton and Macmillan Cancer Support studied 678 people with colorectal cancer, with participants completing an initial questionnaire before their surgery and again within 5 years of treatment.

The Colorectal Wellbeing study underlines the importance of nurses considering patients’ practical and emotional needs throughout treatment and recovery.

Macmillan’s programme lead for treatment and recovery Dany Bell said nurses had to consider the support patients may need ‘further down the line’.

Information access

Ms Bell added that, while patients might not need support during the early stages of diagnosis or treatment, ‘it is about making sure they know where to get information from.’

The study found that patients who received emotional support only a little or none of the time were almost three times as likely to have clinical depression.

They were twice as likely to have clinical anxiety, and more than three times as likely to experience poorer well-being.

Support can include someone who can talk to the patient about their problems, give them information to help them understand a situation, or whose advice the patient really wants.

Holistic needs 

Patients living alone were approximately twice as likely to have clinical anxiety or depression.

London North West Healthcare NHS Trust Macmillan nurse consultant in colorectal cancer Claire Taylor said while cancer nurse specialists were aware of the importance of holistic needs assessments, not all were doing them.

The assessments are part of the recovery package recommended by the national cancer taskforce in England last year.

‘That should be happening not just in the first 6 months but in later stages of the cancer pathway,’ Ms Taylor said.

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