Depression

This is an overview of CAM treatments that have been evaluated by CAM Cancer for cancer-related depression. Please click on a CAM treatment below to view an assessment of its safety and efficacy based on the current research status. Please note that this is not a list of recommended treatments and does not suggest that the treatments are safe and effective.

Safety 

Generally safe and only associated with minimal adverse effect when used in appropriate dilutions. Allergic reactions can occur with all oils. Should not be used undiluted. 

Efficacy 

There is no evidence of significant effects of aromatherapy on mood or depression in cancer patients based on two SRs and two additional RCTs. 

Read the full version of the aromatherapy summary. 

Safety 

The safety of Autogenic therapy has not been systematically assessed. No adverse events were reported in the studies analysed for this summary. Concerns exist for children under the age of five, individuals with schizophrenia or who are actively psychotic. 

Efficacy 

Significant improvements in anxiety and depression (HADS) with AT added to standard care were reported in one small pilot RCT (n=31) 

Read the full version of the Autogenic therapy summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified professional.  Contraindications include strong forceful massage in patients suffering from haemorrhagic disorders, low platelet counts, and blood thinning medication. 

Efficacy 

Improved depression has been reported with various massage interventions, but this is not consistent across all studies and appears to be dependent on participant motivation or to be short-term. Seven SRs assessed effects on depression and/or mood. 

Read the full version of the  Massage (Classical/ Swedish) summary. 

Safety 

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are generally considered to be safe in supportive cancer care. However, no rigorous assessment of the safety of mindfulness-based approaches in cancer patients is available. 

Efficacy 

Breast cancer: MBSR has positive short- and medium-term effects on depression, according to findings from 6 SRs. MBCT might also improve depression as reported by 2 RCT.  

Mixed cancer types: Positive short- and medium-term effects were also found but cannot be applied to specific types of cancer other than breast cancer. Three SRs assessed the effect of mindfulness among patients with mixed cancer types.  

Children and adolescents: positive effects have been reported in mixed types of cancer by a SR but the findings are limited by methodological flaws of the included studies.  

Read the full version of the  Mindfulness summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe with no safety issues on record. Caution is advised for acutely distressed and/or emotionally fragile patients, particularly in patients with serious and life-threatening cancers. 

Efficacy 

Music therapy and music medicine both have a moderate effect on depression compared to usual care, including during active cancer treatment, although not during surgery (5 SRs and 2 additional RCTs).  

Read the full version of the Music therapy summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner.  Some concern has been raised about the use of relaxation therapy interventions among individuals who have a history of psychiatric disorders. 

Efficacy 

Two controlled trials suggest that PMR may reduce depression among patient with cancer. 

Read the full version of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner. As it is a moderate form of aerobic exercise, it may be beneficial for people to check with their health practitioner if they have a known heart condition, severe osteoporosis or musculoskeletal difficulties. 

Efficacy 

The results for various types of cancer are inconclusive; one SR and RCT concluded that qigong reduces the symptoms of depression, another SR showed no effects on depression and two SRs reported mixed results among the studies included. 

Read the full version of the Qigong summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner.  As it is a moderate form of aerobic exercise, it may be beneficial for people to check with their health practitioner if they have a known heart condition, severe osteoporosis or musculoskeletal difficulties. 

Efficacy 

Results for Tai chi in reducing depressive symptoms when compared with exercise training, usual care or sham are inconclusive based on the findings of one SR. 

Read the full version of the Tai chi summary. 

Safety 

Generally considered safe when administered by a qualified practitioner.  Few adverse events are reported in clinical trials and serious adverse effects appear to be rare. Overall injury rates are comparable to other exercise types. 

Efficacy 

Breast cancer: effects on depression are positive when yoga interventions are compared to controls. For comparison with no treatment control, low quality evidence showed no significant difference. Based on the results from 7 RCTs. 

Other cancers: results are mixed; four RCTs have reported positive effects, in one trial positive effects were seen only at 10 weeks and 2 RCTs found no significant difference between yoga and control groups. 

Read the full version of the Yoga summary. 

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