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Patients with cancer may report neuropsychiatric abnormalities including cognitive impairment, behavioral disturbances, and psychiatric disorders that potentially worsen their quality of life, reduce their treatment response, and aggravate their overall prognosis. Neuropsychiatric disturbances have a different pathophysiology, including immuno-inflammatory and neuroendocrine mechanisms, as a consequence of oncologic treatments (chemo- and radio-therapy). Among clinicians involved in the management of such patients, psychiatrists need to pay particular attention in recognizing behavioral disturbances that arise in oncologic patients, and determining those that may be effectively treated with psychotropic medications, psychotherapeutic interventions, and an integration of them. Through the contribution of different clinicians actively involved in the management of oncological patients, the present review is ultimately aimed at updating psychiatrists in relation to the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the onset of cognitive, affective, and behavioral syndromes in these patients, along with epidemiologic and clinical considerations and therapeutic perspectives.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive neurostimulation technique that has received increasing interest in the area of mood disorders over the last several years. While acute, double-blind, sham-controlled studies have already reported positive findings in terms of efficacy and safety for tDCS, follow-up data are lacking. This need prompted the present follow-up study, which assesses post-acute effects of tDCS (no maintenance stimulation was performed), in the mid-term, in a sample of major depressives.
After completing an acute, open trial of tDCS, 23 outpatients with either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder entered a naturalistic follow-up (T1) with clinical evaluations at one week (T2), 1 month (T3), and 3 months (T4). A quantitative analysis of Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D), Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) total scores, through repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) (T1–T4) and paired t-test for comparing specific time points (T1–T2, T2–T3, and T3–T4), was performed. In addition, a qualitative analysis on the basis of treatment response and remission (HAM-D) was performed.
Even though a progressive reduction of follow-up completers was observed from T2 to T4 (95.6% at T2, 65.2% at T3, and 47.8% at T4), the antidepressant effects of acute tDCS persisted over 3 months in almost half of the sample. Of note, no post-acute side effects emerged during the follow-up observation. The most frequent causes of drop-out from this study included major modifications in therapeutic regimen (30%) and poor adherence to follow-up visits (17%).
In this mid-term, open, follow-up study, tDCS showed mixed results. Further controlled studies are urgently needed to assess its effects beyond the acute phase.
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