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The Mind/Body Connection: How Cancer Affects Mental Health
Identifying Depression in a Cancer Patient

Identifying Depression
Emotions like sadness, anxiety, and fear are normal reactions experienced when receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Similarly, learning that your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer can be equally emotionally difficult.

While there are many ways to make coping with cancer and the phases of treatment easier, including getting support from others, sometimes the intensive emotional and physical aspects of cancer can result in a patient and/or their family members becoming clinically depressed.

It can be difficult to distinguish between what is considered a normal level of distress related to the development of a serious medical condition and symptoms that develop which indicate true depression and may require treatment.

Your oncologist or other primary care provider can help determine if the level of your symptoms require medical intervention and/or help develop a plan to alleviate symptoms.

Intervention and Treatment

Many people are better able to better cope with cancer and treatment with the help of a strong support system - talking with friends, family, clergy, or joining a support group. Treatment for anxiety and depression may include a combination of talk therapy, medication, and other behavioral interventions when appropriate.

If you think you may be depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder, a good place to start is by talking about it with your primary care physician and oncologist. If you are unsure how much your mood is being affected, you can also take Butler Hospital's free, confidential online depression screening.

The ultimate goal is to treat the whole person, body and mind, increasing their quality of life and improving health outcomes.


Weinberger, Tal, Anique Forrester, Dimitri Markov, Keira Chism, and Elisabeth J.S. Kunkel. "Women at a Dangerous Intersection: Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression and Related Disorders in Patients with Breast Cancer." Psychiatric Clinics of North America 33.2 (2010): 409-22. Print.

Artherholt, Samantha B., and Jesse R. Fann. "Psychosocial Care in Cancer Patients." Curr. Psychiatry Rep (2012): 14:23-29. Print.

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