Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 141, Issue 3, pp 325–330 | Cite as

Pharmacological treatment of depression in women with breast cancer: a systematic review

  • Lærke Toftegård AndersenEmail author
  • Melissa Voigt Hansen
  • Jacob Rosenberg
  • Ismail Gögenur


The objective of this study is to review the literature on pharmacological treatment of depression in women with breast cancer. According to the PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic review of randomized, controlled clinical trials and open label prospective studies on antidepressants effects on depression in women with breast cancer up to January 14, 2013. In this analysis, a total of 213 studies were identified, and six studies met the inclusion criteria. Of the six studies, three were placebo-controlled randomized controlled clinical trials with fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; and Mianserin—a noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant. Both studies found that fluoxetine and mianserin significantly improved depressive symptoms and quality of life (QOL) compared with placebo. Conversely, desipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, and the SSRI, paroxetine, showed no significant effects on depression compared with placebo. A double-blind, parallel group study comparing a tricyclic antidepressant, amitriptyline, and paroxetine showed a significant and comparable improvement in depression and QOL. Two open label, prospective studies found that escitalopram and the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, reboxetine, significantly improved depression and QOL compared with baseline values. In conclusion, depression is a clinical problem in patients with breast cancer. Pharmacological treatment with antidepressants may improve depression and QOL. However, the evidence is limited, and the studies are too heterogeneous to recommend one regimen or drug over another. Further antidepressant studies are needed to guide depression treatment in patients with breast cancer.


Breast cancer Oncology Antidepressants Depression Depressive symptoms Pharmacological treatment 



The Lundbeck foundation supported the main author Lærke Toftegård Andersen with a scholarship.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no commercial or other associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lærke Toftegård Andersen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melissa Voigt Hansen
    • 1
  • Jacob Rosenberg
    • 1
  • Ismail Gögenur
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, Herlev HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenHerlevDenmark

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