17,22,23 For some clinicians, it is tempting to view the relatively calm, confused state of hypoactive delirium as a desirable way to die. However, delirium at the end of life can be deeply distressing to patients, family members, and caregivers.24,25 Terminal delirium also interferes with a patient’s ability to participate in their care and say goodbye to loved ones. Chemotherapy and other medications used in cancer treatment (eg, glucocorticoids, narcotics, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and antibiotics) often lead to adverse effects that mimic depression. Notably, dopamine-blocking antiemetics such as metoclopramide
(Reglan), prochlorperazine (Compazine), and promethazine Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical (Phenergan) cause akathisia, which may in turn be misdiagnosed as an anxious or agitated depression.26,27 Clinicians are thus faced with the task of differentiating somatic symptoms that masquerade as depression from a superimposed syndromal depression that complicates the course and treatment of cancer. Not surprisingly, even experienced psycho-oncologists struggle with this difficult determination. Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical Even when physiological and pharmacological mimics of depression
have been ruled out, clinicians confront several additional diagnostic dilemmas. Dying patients can experience a broad spectrum of depressive symptoms, ranging from transient sadness to psychotic depression. In contrast to the countless studies of depressive phenomenology in patients without medical comorbidity, there has been little research in the oncology setting to help clinicians distinguish between major depressive disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, mood disorder due to a general medical condition, pathological Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical grief, demoralization, and subsyndromal depressive symptoms.28-31 Given this diagnostic complexity, it is therefore not surprising that estimates of depression in the oncology setting vary so widely. It is likely that the prevalence of major depressive disorder increases with advanced stages of cancer3,4 and varies by tumor site.32,33
However, all cancer types are associated with a rate of depression that is significantly Inhibitors,research,lifescience,medical higher than the general population. Depression, and somatic symptoms, and course of cancer Patients with terminal cancer suffer from an enormous symptom burden. A recent review of 44 studies, including data from thousands of patients, estimated symptom prevalence in individuals with incurable cancer.34 Five symptoms (HKI-272 price fatigue, pain, lack of energy, weakness, and appetite loss) were reported in greater than 50% of patients. The prevalence of nervousness and depression were 48% and 39%, respectively. As described earlier, many of the core diagnostic symptoms of depression are precisely those symptoms experienced most commonly by cancer patients at the end of life.34 Importantly, somatic symptoms frequently co-occur with depression in cancer patients and are associated with increased disability.