Conference hears of increased depression among cancer patients due to financial problems.

The second All-Ireland Conference on Population-based Cancer Research, which will be held in Dublin today, will hear that almost half of all cancer patients reported increased financial stress as a result of their diagnosis. Many patients were found to be depressed or anxious, and the risk of severe depression was four times higher among those reporting financial stress. Dr Linda Sharp, an investigator on the study said “Recent studies have shown that having cancer can have an adverse financial effect on patients.  This is the first study to show a direct link between the financial stress of cancer and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. These results, if confirmed, have important implications for the health and social services.”

The conference will also hear how financial factors may reduce uptake of breast and cervical cancer screening programmes in the Republic of Ireland, compared to Northern Ireland. Author of the study, Brendan Walsh from NUI Galway said “The study found differences in participation in screening in the Republic of Ireland, based on income, which were not replicated in the North. These differences may contribute to inequalities in treatment and outcomes across socio-economic groups in the Republic”.

A second study, on breast screening in the Republic, found that women who “skip” a round of breast screening have higher recall rates for assessment and higher rates of cancer diagnoses. Dr Patricia Fitzpatrick, one of the authors, commented “This study shows the importance of attending all appointments for screening. Women who skip rounds of screening tend to have higher recall rates and a tendency towards larger tumours."

The conference, which is a collaboration between the National Cancer Registry, the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and Queen’s University Belfast, brings together researchers in the areas of cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, with over 50 oral and poster contributions. Dr Harry Comber, of the National Cancer Registry, said “This conference highlights the increasing volume and quality of patient-centred cancer research being carried out in Ireland today, and the value of cross–border cooperation in exchange of ideas and shared projects”.

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