Consulting and prescribing behaviour for anxiety and depression in long-term survivors of cancer in the UK

Eur J Cancer. 2010 Dec;46(18):3339-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.07.035. Epub 2010 Aug 18.


Introduction: Cancer survivors may experience long-term depression or anxiety, however, there is little previous research on the use of services in this area. We explored consultation and prescribing behaviour for depression and anxiety amongst cancer survivors in British primary health care.

Methods: This study uses data on 26,213 survivors of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer at least 5 years post-diagnosis, matched to four controls without cancer, from the UK General Practice Research Database. We compared consultations for depression and anxiety, and prescribing for anti-depressants and anxiolytics between cancer survivors and controls.

Results: Multivariate, matched regression models showed no difference in consulting for depression or anxiety between any cancer survivors and matched controls. However, breast cancer (odds ratio (OR) 1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.10-1.22) and prostate cancer survivors (OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.16-1.47) were more likely to receive a prescription for an antidepressant. Breast cancer survivors (IRR 2.49, 95% CI 1.82-3.42) and prostate cancer survivors (IRR 2.84, 95% CI 1.94-4.17) who died received significantly more antidepressants than controls who died. There were no differences in anxiolytic prescribing for colorectal and prostate cancer survivors compared to controls. However, breast cancer survivors nearing the end of life received a greater number of anxiolytic prescriptions compared to controls (IRR 1.84, 95% CI 1.36-2.49).

Conclusions: In this cohort of cancer survivors, there were no differences in consultation behaviour for depression and anxiety compared to controls. However, breast and prostate cancer survivors access more antidepressants, and those nearing the end of life received the highest volume of prescriptions. Breast cancer survivors at the end of life also receive more anxiolytics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents