Incidence and drug treatment of emotional distress after cancer diagnosis: a matched primary care case-control study

F Desplenter, C Bond, M Watson, C Burton, P Murchie, A J Lee, K Lefevre, S Simoens, G Laekeman

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26 Citations (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Emotional distress is common in cancer patients. This study aimed to describe, in the year after a cancer diagnosis: the incidence of anxiety, depression and excessive alcohol use; the pattern of these diagnoses and treatment over time; and the nature and duration of the prescribed treatment.

METHODS: A matched case-control study was conducted using routinely collected primary care data from 173 Scottish general practices. A presumptive diagnosis of emotional distress (anxiety, depression and/or excessive alcohol use) was based on prescription data or diagnostic code. Prescriptions for psychotropic drugs were described in terms of drug class, volume and treatment duration.

RESULTS: In total, 7298 cancer cases and 14 596 matched-controls were identified. Overall, 1135 (15.6%) cases and 201 (1.4%) controls met criteria for emotional distress (odds ratio 13.7, 95% confidence interval 11.6-16.1). Psychotropic drugs were prescribed in the 6 months following initial cancer diagnosis for 1066 (14.6%) cases and 161 (1.1%) controls. The volume and duration of anxiolytic and antipsychotic prescribing was significantly different between cases and controls.

CONCLUSION: This study quantified the higher incidence of new emotional distress in cancer patients in the first year post diagnosis. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of emotional distress at any time in the year after cancer diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1644-1651
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2012


  • Aged
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Anxiety
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders
  • Neoplasms
  • Scotland


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