Depression After Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma: Women Have Most Risk

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White women have a higher chance to have depression after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lung lining caused by asbestos exposure. (

That conclusion came this week from researchers based at the University of Florida. The team looked at the cases of 120,000 people with late-stage mesothelioma.

While all patients with an advanced cancer diagnosis may feel depressed, the problem tends to be worse with white women. The researchers say a better understanding of how cancer news affects people can assist doctors to avoid the problem of diagnosis bias.

Cancer Records Obtained from SEER Database

The study at the University of Florida offers key insights into who is more likely to suffer depression after diagnosis for mesothelioma. It included 123,066 advanced cancer cases from the SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) database. All of the subjects in the study had a cancer diagnosis between 2001 and 2013.

The clinical study did not specifically target people with a mesothelioma diagnosis. It featured lung cancer patients as well as mesothelioma patients. Pleural mesothelioma has many similarities with lung cancer. It is nearly always diagnosed at a later stage and is difficult to treat.

Is Depression More Common After Mesothelioma Diagnosis

The study showed that depression after diagnosis for mesothelioma is likely greater today than six years ago. From 2001-13, the rate of depression for advanced cancer patients went up by 9%. Most depression cases occurred within the first 90 days after the person had a stage IV diagnosis for cancer.

For more than 19,000 white patients, 20% reported depression. In black patients, the number was only 16%. Hispanic cancer patients had a lower rate of depression at 13%.

Gender also can be a factor in the depression rate after a diagnosis for mesothelioma. Twenty percent of women in the study said they were depressed compared to men at 16%

How to Manage Depression After Cancer Diagnosis

For people with a greater risk of depression after their mesothelioma diagnosis, studies indicate that keeping up physical activity can help a great deal.

  • A study in 2017 found that patients with mesothelioma who gave up the activities they once loved are more likely to be depressed.
  • In 2018, the Clinical Oncology Society in Australia recommended exercise as an effective way to fight the mental effects of a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment.

Another study in early 2019 found that getting surgery for mesothelioma also can help the patient feel better mentally. Although depression rates may spike in the months after surgery, peritoneal mesothelioma patients felt happier 24 months after surgery than prior to it.