Depression in Cancer

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Many people with cancer go through depression. This is natural. But the good news is that there is help for your depression. You simply need to ask your treatment team for help.

Depression makes dealing with cancer even harder. It also causes problems in making the right choices for your treatment. Consider management of your depression part of your cancer treatment.

Signs of Depression in Cancer

Signs of depression appear at any time after your diagnosis. Some of these signs are mild and barely noticeable. Others are severe and change your daily life and affects your relationships. If you notice signs of depression, talk to your doctor.

Mood Related Symptoms

  • Feeling down
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Numbness
  • Worthlessness

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Lost interest in favorite activities
  • Frequent crying
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Lost motivation

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Decreased concentration
  • Decision-making difficulties
  • Memory problems
  • Negative thinking

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Lost appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Sexual problems

Risk Factors for Depression in Cancer

People with cancer have a higher likelihood of experiencing depression if they have the following risk factors:

  • Previously diagnosed anxiety or depression
  • Family history of anxiety or depression
  • Lack of family or friend support
  • Financial difficulties

Treatment of Depression in Cancer

Your treatment team is your best resource for help with depression. When talking to them, discuss your feelings, things causing you stress, physical symptoms of depression you experience, how your daily life is affected and other concerns about your depression. Through open communication, your treatment professionals can help you and develop a treatment plan for your depression.

Specialized treatment is available for depression with cancer. People with moderate or severe depression usually benefit most from a combination of therapy and medication. Mild depression often benefits from counseling.

If you do need medication for your depression, your doctor determines the right antidepressant for your individual needs. Below are some factors for choosing that medication:

  • Your individual needs
  • Potential side effects
  • Other medications you are prescribed
  • Your medical history

Many people notice benefits and improvement after only a few weeks of beginning their antidepressant medication. But it takes six to eight weeks to experience the full effects of your medication.

Remember to keep an open line of communication with your treatment team regarding side effects and emotional well-being. How you feel plays a significant role in your cancer recovery and return to a healthy, happy life. When you realize you need help, support or guidance during and after cancer treatment, talk to your doctor for that help.