The prevalence and use of antidepressant medication in pediatric cancer patients

Andrew Portteus, Naveed Ahmad, Daniel Tobey, Patrick Leavey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: During the period of cancer diagnosis and active treatment, several small case series have revealed high rates of psychiatric difficulty in pediatric patients. However, due to the methodological limitations in these studies, it remains impossible to determine accurately the true prevalence of mood disorders in pediatric cancer patients receiving cancer treatment. To date, no study has reported rates of antidepressant treatment in this population. Objectives: The aims of this study were: (1) To determine the prevalence of the use of antidepressant medication (ADM) in children with cancer; (2) to identify a group of children being treated for cancer, that are likely to receive ADM, and who therefore may be eligible for a prospective observational or interventional clinical trial of depression during cancer therapy. Methods: We reviewed the medical records of 224 pediatric patients suspected for cancer in 2003 at the Children's Medical Center of Dallas. Of these, 6 proved non-oncologic and 2 were lost to follow up, leaving 216 charts for review. Results: Within 1 year of diagnosis, 29 patients (13%) had received a psychiatric consultation. Twenty-two patients (10.2%) received ADM within 1 year of cancer diagnosis. Children ≥ 12 years, children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and children receiving radiotherapy or opiate analgesics were more likely to receive ADM by multivariate analysis. Race, sex, bone marrow transplant, and surgery were not significantly associated with ADM use. Conclusions: The prevalence of ADM use in pediatric cancer patients (10.2%) was higher than the reported rates of depression (4-8%) and ADM treatment (1%) in the general pediatric population. Teenagers and those who received opiate analgesic medications during their cancer therapy represent a subgroup of children in whom further study of depression and cancer therapy may be valuable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-473
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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