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Depression and Cancer

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Depression and cancer are two very different conditions that are linked surprisingly often. Recent estimates indicate that as many as one in every four people who are suffering from cancer have to deal with subsequent depression at some point following their diagnosis. As such, it’s important to analyze the connection that exists between the two seemingly different disorders, and understand the best way to remedy mental health while dealing with a terrible, deadly disease.

Upon learning that they are suffering from cancer, people’s worlds are shaken. They immediately begin to question their future in every possible sense, and are often left to re-examine the decisions they have made in the past, the relationships they have established and the plants that they once set for themselves. Even if they are surrounded by a loving, caring group of people, cancer sufferers who begin to shows signs of onset depression often feel extremely alone.

Some of the most recognizable signs of depression in someone who has been diagnosed with cancer are:
• Constant sad or "empty" mood
• Loss of interest or pleasure in everything
• Major shifts in weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain
• Being restless and agitated at all times
• Fatigue, loss of energy
• Trouble sleeping; insomnia
• Trouble focusing thoughts regarding everything
• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless at all times
• Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

The best way to deal with this, as identified by the American Cancer Society, are as follows:

• Encourage the depressed person to continue treatment until symptoms improve, or to talk to the doctor about different treatment if there is no improvement after 2 or 3 weeks.
• Promote physical activity, especially mild exercise such as daily walks.
• Help make appointments for mental health treatment, if needed.
• Provide transportation for treatment, if needed.
• Engage your loved one in conversation and other activities they enjoy.
• Realize that negative thinking is one of the symptoms of depression and should get better with treatment.
• Reassure your loved one that with time and treatment, he or she will begin to feel better.

Cancer is a frightening disease that takes an understandable emotional toll on all sufferers. Nevertheless, depression relating to it is preventable so long as the diagnosed patient and the people surrounding him or her have the desire to do so.

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