Receiving a cancer diagnosis is devastating. For many who have been through cancer or are still undergoing treatment, it’s a mix of emotions: shock, fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness. Changes with body image can alter self-esteem and confidence. Physical symptoms due to the cancer and to the treatment (pain, nausea, extreme tiredness) can also lead to emotional distress.
For a number of cancer patients, it can also lead to depression.
For Scott Davis, who shared his story on depression during his cancer treatment, says he wasn’t prepared for the setbacks in his recovery. Before cancer, he said “I took care of my house, cared for my wife and helped my friends and family with whatever they needed. Fast forward a few months and I was being pushed around in a wheelchair."
Fortunately, Scott reached out for help and with changes to his diet and implementing strategies to cope with negative thoughts, he started to feel better. He now helps newly diagnosed cancer patients.
While it’s normal to feel scared, worried, sad and anxious following a cancer diagnosis, cancer-related depression is different, with specific symptoms. They include:
- A lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- A sense of hopelessness, withdrawing from loved ones, frequently crying
- Decreased ability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, memory loss and negative thinking
- Significant, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, or changes in appetite
- Insomnia (disrupted sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
Caregivers can also experience depression, as they can become overwhelmed and helpless. They can find it hard to see their loved one suffering, or feel frustrated because they don’t know how – or what to do – to help them. Cancer survivors can also be affected – they may feel survivor guilt, fear of recurrence, or lingering physical effects of previous treatments.
If you – or someone you care about – is experiencing these symptoms, please seek out a licensed medical health professional to help you and provide you with the right resources. There are a number of ways to treat clinical depression, including medication, counseling, or combination of therapies. You can also contact Cancer Recovery Foundation International for information on resources in your community that can help you and your loved ones.