Cancer Information: Care Giving - Depression in Cancer Patients

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Can cancer patients suffer from depression?

Cancer Information: Care Giving - Depression in Cancer Patients

With cancer, sadness and grief are normal, but sometimes these feelings last a long time and get in the way of day-to-day activities. Clinical depression occurs in one in four people with cancer, and is a treatable illness. If family and friends notice any of the signs from the list below, they should encourage the cancer patient to get help for depression. Treatment for depression includes medications, counseling, a combination of medications and counseling, or specialized treatments. Getting treatment for depression can greatly increase the quality of life of the cancer patient.

  • Sad or "empty" mood almost every day for most of the day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Eating problems (loss of appetite or overeating), including weight loss or gain
  • Sleep changes (inability to sleep, early waking, or oversleeping)
  • Fatigue or decreased energy almost every day
  • Other people notice that you are restless or "slowed down" almost every day
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or attempts at suicide
  • Wild mood swings from depression to periods of agitation and high energy

If five or more of the above-listed symptoms are noticed and the symptoms last for longer than two weeks, or are very severe, the cancer patient should be evaluated by a qualified health professional.

If the cancer patient has had cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, the patient's eating habits may change. Sleeping habits may also change, as chemotherapy can suck the energy right out of you, so before recommending help, know what medications and treatments the cancer patient is on, and note if there are other signs of clinical depression. When in doubt, always schedule an evaluation.



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