KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Clinical depression affects up to 40 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer, but it's a topic that scientists have not yet examined in depth.
A new grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation will allow a University of Tennessee professor to conduct a groundbreaking study into how best to treat well diagnosed depression in breast cancer patients.
"The study of how to treat depressed breast cancer patients is a critical area to examine that has thus far largely been neglected," said Derek Hopko, an associate professor of psychology at UT and the study's lead researcher. "It could have real benefits to a lot of people."
Research has shown that clinical depression in cancer patients leads to a significant decline in their quality of life, as well as more rapidly progressing cancer symptoms and pain.
Hopko's study will look at two different methods of treating depression, problem-solving therapy and brief behavior activation therapy (BATD). Hopko and a colleague from the University of Maryland designed BATD in 2001.
The study will examine the relative effectiveness of both treatments for depression in breast cancer patients and determine if BATD is more effective than the more traditional problem-solving approach.
The BATD technique helps patients to identify their unique value system as it relates to many different parts of life, such as family, peer and intimate relationships, hobbies and recreation, employment and spirituality.
Psychologists then work with patients to facilitate participation in behaviors that will move them towards their individual values and goals. The process allows for increased and more rewarding experiences and helps reduce depression symptoms, said Hopko. A psychologist also will work with patients to understand what was rewarding in the past, and help plan ways to re-engage in those activities.