Moffitt Cancer Center researchers link stigma to depression among lung cancer patients

Ferdie De Vega
EurekAlert

TAMPA, Fla. (March 23, 2012) – Studying the role of social stigma in depression for lung cancer patients, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., have found that depression can be heightened by a lung cancer patient’s sense of social rejection, internalized shame and social isolation. These factors may contribute to depression at rates higher than experienced by patients with other kinds of cancer.

Their study was published in a recent issue of Psycho-Oncology (21:2012).

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship of perceived stigma to depressive symptomology in lung cancer patients,” said study co-author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., Moffitt’s associate center director for Population Sciences. “Given its strong association with tobacco use, lung cancer is commonly viewed as a preventable disease. Consequently, patients may blame themselves for developing lung cancer and feel stigmatized. Even lung cancer patients who have never smoked often felt – accurately or inaccurately – that they were being blamed for their disease by friends, loved ones and even health care professionals.”

According to study co-author Brian D. Gonzalez, M.A., of Moffitt’s Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior, the aim of the study was to identify psychosocial links for depression among lung cancer patients in order to develop interventions. They also wanted to find out if – beyond other social and demographic factors often taken into account in studies of depression and cancer diagnosis perceived – stigma could account for variability in depressive symptoms in cancer patients.

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