Pancreatic Cancer and Depression: A Narrative Review

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Depression is a common concomitant of pancreatic cancer, and, because it often occurs before the cancer is diagnosed, its occurrence is likely to be intrinsic to the condition rather than a reaction to such a diagnosis. Because pancreatic cancer is associated with a very high mortality, its early detection is a key task. We therefore review relevant literature to determine whether the depression is prototypically distinctive and whether its identification might lead to earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We report on the epidemiology and prognosis of pancreatic cancer and on the prevalence, description, and possible mechanisms involved for the occurrence of any associated depressive state, before reviewing the comparative utility of depression in relation to other risk factors in aiding diagnosis. Published studies fail to identify any distinct depressive prototypic phenotype to depression associated with pancreatic cancer. Although it is a relatively common concomitant of pancreatic cancer, the utility of depression as a marker of the condition is not suggested from a key study evaluating its contribution in relation to other symptoms and risk factors.

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