Can Depression Cause Cancer?
People with cancer, and even their loved ones, often fall into depression. It may appear like feelings of sadness, and that's understandable given the fears and anxiety about whether the person would survive, the thoughts of amazing dreams and bright futures that are now at stake.
But the relationship between cancer and depression isn't merely a feeling. Studies show that depression may cause cancer, just as cancer may pull one into depression. Sadly, depression coexisting with cancer may increase the risk of death by up to 39%.
What type of cancer can depression cause?
Studies suggest that depression and anxiety are particularly associated with an increased risk of cancer of the lungs, skin, prostate, and oral cavity. Most of these cancers are treatable, some curable if diagnosed early.
The Link between Cancer and Depression
Once cancer engages the immune system, the brain is forced to focus on fighting the disease and conserve energy. By so doing, brain processing speed slows down, and the patient may fall into depression.
On the other hand, depression is associated with an increased risk of cancer. About 15-25% of cancer patients report symptoms of depression. Knowing how this affects death rate, it's not something you want to take lightly.
One disease alone is terrible enough. For cancer and depression to coexist is nothing anyone would wish for. Sadly, these things happen.
And quite notably, major/clinical depression makes it hard for cancer patients to follow up with their treatment plans. With a feeling of despair and hopelessness, some see no reason why they should go on with treatment.
What to Do When Battling Cancer and Depression
Depression in cancer can be managed. It all depends on early detection and intervention.
Therefore, family and friends of cancer patients should watch out for signs of major depression and encourage them to get help or do so on their behalf.
Also, note that anxiety symptoms usually go together with depression. So you should watch out for the following signs:
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Persistent sadness and hopelessness that impairs willingness to carry out daily activities
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Poor diet
- Trouble focusing
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts and talks of suicide
- Mood swings
- Excessive or persistent worry
How to Manage Depression in Cancer Patients
Managing depression in cancer could be through medication or counseling, or both. Sometimes, specialized treatment options can also be employed depending on the severity of the condition.
Managing depression with cancer is important as it can reduce suffering in the individual and help them live a well-fulfilling life despite their challenges.
Here are some things you can do if you feel depressed while living with cancer:
- Talk to someone you trust. It doesn't matter if they have a solution to your issues—just talking, in itself, helps you feel better. It also doesn't matter if you pour out your frustration and anger with bitter words. Venting is ok.
- Seek help through a licensed psychiatrist or advanced practice nurse. They may suggest medication or therapy to help ease your depression while living with cancer.
- Try mindfulness meditation as it helps to improve moods and quell anxiety and depression.
- Get out when you feel down and walk around your neighborhood, a park preferably. Nature helps!
How Family Members Can Offer Support
Your loved one who's going through cancer and depression needs as much emotional support as they could get, and it'd be great if you could be there for them. Try to listen without judgment, and use cognitive reframing -- when it feels right -- to help them view their situation from a slightly different perspective. But never force them to talk if they don't feel like it.
And if you feel like venting your depression to a loved one, that's a great idea as it could help you deal with the negative emotions. Just ensure you vent the right way. Rather than ruminating on what you're going through, you can cue your listener to offer suggestions on what to do. And ensure whoever you vent to is someone you trust to be of help.
Even when you have cancer and depression, you can still live a better life and impact others. Never forget that. And there's help waiting.
Get help today.