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Does Chemotherapy Make Mesothelioma Patients More Vulnerable to Depression?

People with cancer have good reason to be depressed, and this is particularly true of those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. This form of cancer is both rare and always fatal, and to make things worse it is entirely preventable. Mesothelioma is caused by just one thing – exposure to asbestos – and most mesothelioma patients have to come to terms with the fact that their exposure could have been prevented had the companies whose products they worked with exercised a degree of care or responsibility.

Researchers have long wondered whether the depression displayed by cancer victims goes beyond the disease itself, and whether the chemotherapy protocols use to treat cancer might also be contributing to the problem. Now a team of researcher s from King’s College London has conducted an early animal study that suggests that chemotherapy may indeed cause biological and behavioral changes in the brain that are related to depression.

Though the study focused specifically on a chemotherapy drug that is used in treating brain cancer, the effects of this particular medication are shared by many others. They aim to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells and at the same time impact rapidly dividing cells throughout the body, causing hair loss, mouth ulcers, stomach problems and more. This study showed evidence that the drugs may also stop the growth of new brain cells, leading to an alteration in brain mechanisms that can impact mood.

The drug Temozolomide was tested on the laboratory mice, administering it in the same way that human patients receive the drug in chemotherapy clinics. The animals experienced a significant reduction in the growth of new brain cells in the area that is specifically associated with mood and memory. Not only did this increase depression, but it also increased stress and decreased memory activity. The animals’ behaviors following treatment were directly related to symptoms of depression, including a lack of pleasure seeking and deficits in processing overall.

According to the study’s author, Dr. Martin Egeland from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, “Although these preliminary findings are based on mice, our results suggest that chemotherapy may stunt the growth of new brain cells, which has biological and behavioral consequences that may leave people less able to cope with the stress of having cancer.”

If you are struggling with mesothelioma and you are experiencing signs of depression, you are not alone. For information on community support and other resources that are available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today. We can be reached at 1-800-692-8608.

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