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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Pancreatic cancer and depression: myth and truth

Martina Mayr* and Roland M Schmid

Author Affiliations

Internal Medicine II, Klinikum Rechts der Isar, Technical University of Munich, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:569  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-569

Published: 20 October 2010



Various studies reported remarkable high incidence rates of depression in cancer patients compared with the general population. Pancreatic cancer is still one of the malignancies with the worst prognosis and therefore it seems quite logical that it is one of the malignancies with the highest incidence rates of major depression.

However, what about the scientific background of this relationship? Is depression in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer just due to the confrontation with a life threatening disease and its somatic symptoms or is depression in this particular group of patients a feature of pancreatic cancer per se?


Several studies provide evidence of depression to precede the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and some studies even blame it for its detrimental influence on survival. The immense impact of emotional distress on quality of life of cancer patients enhances the need for its early diagnosis and adequate treatment. Knowledge about underlying pathophysiological mechanisms is required to provide the optimal therapy.


A review of the literature on this issue should reveal which are the facts and what is myth.