Depressive disorders, with prevalence varying widely by setting, are among the common debilitating mental health disorders in patients with cancer worldwide. An understanding of the prevalence of depressive disorders among a specific patient population group should inform both their prevention and management. We conducted this study to estimate the prevalence and correlates of depressive disorders among patients living with cancer at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), Lilongwe in Malawi.
We conducted a cross-sectional study nested in another larger quasi-experimental study evaluating the effect of integrating depression screening and management on clinical outcomes among cancer patients attending oncology services at a Cancer Unit based at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. A validated PHQ-9 tool was used to estimate prevalence of major depressive disorders. A total of 399 consented participants were enrolled from August to December, 2021. We estimated the prevalence and associated factors to depression among this patient group.
The study comprised more females (64%) than males. Cervical cancer (33%), Kaposi’s Sarcoma (16%), breast cancer (9%) and esophageal cancer (4%) were the top four common malignancies in the study. The prevalence of major depressive disorders was 11.5%; most (52%) of whom had moderate depressive symptoms on PHQ-9 scale. Patients receiving palliative care were associated with reduced odds of major depressive disorders [Odds ratio: 0.36 (95% CI: 0.14–0.94)].
A high proportion of patients with cancer had major depressive disorders. Patients on palliative care were protected from having major depressive disorders. There is a need for integrating screening and treatment of depressive disorders among patients living with cancer to improve cancer care in Malawi.