The effect of cancer on the mind often takes second place to the ravages it heaps upon the body. The treatment itself–surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy–is a lot to cope with along with fears for the future. Alterations in lifestyle and a loss of a job, or the worry about bills, insurance, and the effect it all is having on the family can weigh a cancer patient down heavily.
It is natural that depression should occur in such circumstances. And while treatment is ongoing for the physical ailment the mental well being of the patient suffers. When this happens, you should resist the impulse to withdraw into a shell and must seek counseling.
You may feel hesitant about raising this issue with the doctor treating you. The symptoms of depression can often have similarities with the cancer treatment itself. So a doctor will not necessarily be able to make out that you are indeed suffering from depression. It is up to you to bring up the subject, be forthright and frank, and consider it a side effect of the disease.
There are certain guidelines that are laid down for the care of cancer patients and screening for psychiatric problems is one of them. Once the level of anguish is identified the psychological treatment can start. Trained professionals can help you with your depression. There is often a team of oncologists and counselors and other health professionals who give a comprehensive treatment, covering all aspects of the disease, attending to the body and mind.
The main symptoms of depression could be a lack of sleep and appetite, feeling hopeless, and decreased levels of energy and interest.
Therapists can teach you to tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed and address each issue in your life one by one. Coping with cancer is a big enough job that you might not find the resources within yourself to handle issues such as work, marriage, children, bills, and other health problems. A therapist will guide you to develop other interests and skills; point out ways to address the work-life-health balance; help you and your partner with emotional and financial problems and the worry the cancer treatment is causing in your lives.
Another factor that you must be aware of is that if you are on chemotherapy some of the medicines you are taking could affect your mood and thought. Depression could be a side effect of the medication you are on. Chemo causes hair loss and a loss of libido also and this could be a secondary cause of depression.
Depression could also occur after the completion of the cancer treatment. Your family might expect you to resume your normal life not knowing that in fact the cancer has changed things for you in many respects. You might still be fatigued after the treatment and not be able to do your normal chores around the house or socialize with people again. All this could impact the way you feel about yourself and cause depression. At this stage also you will need to see a counselor to talk about how to get back on even keel.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that depression when you have cancer is normal. It is vitally important that you talk about it with your physician and you and your family should be evaluated and treated as soon as possible.