Depression treatment among elderly medicare beneficiaries with incident cases of cancer and newly diagnosed depression

Monira Alwhaibi, Suresh Madhavan, Thomas Bias, Kimberly Kelly, James Walkup, Usha Sambamoorthi

Publication Date: 05/01/2017

Objective: Depression treatment can improve the health outcomes of elderly cancer survivors. There is a paucity of studies on the extent to which depression is treated among elderly cancer survivors. Therefore, this study estimated the rates of depression treatment among elderly cancer survivors and identified the factors affecting depression treatment. Methods: A retrospective cohort study design was adopted, and data were obtained from the linked Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) and Medicare database. Elderly individuals (≥ 66 years) with incident cases of breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer and newly diagnosed depression (N=1,673) were followed for six months after the depression diagnosis to identify depression treatment (antidepressants only, psychotherapy only, combined treatment with both antidepressants and psychotherapy, and no depression treatment). Chi-square tests and multinomial logistic regressions were used to analyze the factors associated with depression treatment. Results: In this study population, 46% received antidepressants only, 27% received no treatment, 18% received combined therapy, and 9% received psychotherapy only. Factors associated with depression treatment included anxiety, the percentage of psychologists at the county level, the number of visits to primary care physicians, ongoing cancer treatment, the presence of other chronic conditions, and raceethnicity. Conclusions: The study findings indicate that two-thirds of cancer survivors received depression treatment in the first six months after depression diagnosis. Our study findings indicate that racial-ethnic disparities in depression treatment persist and competing demands for cancer treatment may take priority over depression care. Also, the availability of psychologistsmay influence receipt of psychotherapy among cancer survivors.