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Prevalence and Correlates of Depression Among Patients With Head and Neck Cancer: A Systematic Review of Implications for Research

Mary Ellen Haisfield-Wolfe
Deborah B. McGuire
Karen Soeken
Jeanne Geiger-Brown
Bruce R. De Forge
ONF 2009, 36(3), E104-E125 DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E107-E125

Purpose/Objectives: To present a comprehensive summary of the existing research literature related to prevalence and correlates of depression in adult patients with head and neck cancer to establish a knowledge base for future research.

Data Sources: Quantitative studies in English measuring depression or mood in adults with head and neck cancer published from 1986-2008.

Data Synthesis: A substantial body of knowledge exists regarding prevalence, correlates, and predictors of depression in patients with head and neck cancer. Prevalence rates of depression are high at diagnosis, during treatment, and in the first six months following treatment, and mild to moderate depression may continue for three to six years after diagnosis. Certain patient demographic characteristics (e.g., marital status, education), symptoms, and specific time points in the illness trajectory (e.g., time of treatment) are correlated with depression. Specific patient variables at diagnosis, such as depression, can predict depression at later time points.

Conclusions: Additional research should assess symptoms using consistent depression instruments or clinical interviews based on specific criteria in patients with head and neck cancer. Specifically, multisite studies should be conducted to increase sample sizes. Research related to symptom clusters and the effect of clusters on patients is needed. Longitudinal studies that examine depression and patient characteristics, symptoms, type of treatments, and the correlates of depression across the trajectory of illness are important. Replication of existing research using multiple patient and clinical characteristics to explore predictors of depression may reveal profiles for patients most at risk.

Implications for Nursing: This comprehensive summary of existing research literature related to the prevalence and correlates of depression among adult patients with head and neck cancer provides evidence-based information that can be used by oncology nurses in their practice.

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