University Study Finds Black Cancer Patients May Be Under-Diagnosed for Depression

man-in-despairA new study led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland examined the mental state of Black and White cancer patients at the Northeast Ohio Medical Center. The researchers found that African American cancer patients are more likely to be under-diagnosed for depression than White cancer patients. Treating depression in cancer patients is important because previous studies have shown that patients with a more positive outlook on life tend to survive longer.

The researchers found that Black cancer patients less frequently used the word “depressed” to describe how they felt. But Black patients often said that they were “feeling down,” “gloomy,” “low,” “blue,” “irritable,” or “wanted to be alone.”

Amy Zhang, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and the lead author of the study, said that “because we don’t use those words in standardized testing, we could be losing people with depression.”

The authors recommend that Black cancer patients may benefit from more culturally sensitive depression measures rather than using standard psychological tests that are mainly based on responses from White patients.

The study, “Exploration of Depressive Symptoms in African American Cancer Patients,” was published on the website of the Journal of Mental Health. It may be accessed here.

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