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The study included more than 45,000 Danish women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer between 1998 and 2011. Of those, 13 percent had been treated with antidepressants and 2 percent had previously visited a hospital for depression.
Compared with those who never took antidepressants, patients who used antidepressants were much less likely to receive recommended breast cancer treatments and had shorter overall survival, according to Dr. Nis Suppli, of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues.
In addition, the researchers found that antidepressant use was tied to shorter breast cancer-specific survival: five years after cancer diagnosis, 13 percent of patients who used antidepressants had died of breast cancer, compared to 11 percent of those who never took the drugs.
The study authors suggest that the lower survival rate among those who took antidepressants is due to the fact that they are less likely to receive recommended breast cancer treatments.
The findings were published online this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a publication of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
"These findings suggest that women with prior depression may be vulnerable to receiving sub-standard breast cancer care," said Dr. Harold Burstein, an ASCO expert in breast cancer.
"While the reasons for this are unknown, this study serves as a call for clinicians to provide careful attention to the treatment and follow-up care of this population," Burstein said.
"Women with mental health needs may require assistance in making treatment decisions and navigating the health care system," he added in an ASCO news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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