How cancer can cause depression

Cancer patients are at least twice as likely as people without the disease to suffer from depression. Twenty-five percent of all cancer patients warrant medical treatment or evaluation for depression. Depression can exacerbate tumor growth, decrease quality of life, and make treatment more difficult. Here are some of the ways cancer leads to depression and the science behind it.

Diagnosis and treatment cause stress

Stress is one of the most common causes of depression. Natural emotional reactions such negative thoughts or hopelessness regarding your diagnosis or outlook may induce a great deal of stress. Feelings of despair may endure throughout your cancer treatment, progressing from mild depressive thoughts to severe depression.

Chemotherapy side effects depressive for patient

According to PubMed, chemotherapy side effects contribute up to 40 – 60% of patients’ emotional distress. Chemotherapy is a common form of cancer treatment that is widely known for its aggressive side effects such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, reduced cognitive function (aka ‘chemo brain’), fatigue, loss of appetite, and more.

Cancer impairs cognitive function

Cognitive impairment is prevalent in cancer patients, especially advanced forms of the disease. Cancers induce neurochemical reorganization of the spinal cord, which contributes to altered responsiveness. Researchers also hypothesize it can cause abnormal activity of neural circuits and cause hormone imbalances that can affect your brain’s chemistry and lead to mental and behavioral changes.

Medical procedures affect self-esteem

Some cancers require surgery, and sometimes even removal of a body part, to stop or slow their progression and save the patient’s life. The loss of a breast, testicle, or limb, can have a significant impact on a patient’s self-esteem and identity.

Have you experienced cancer-related depression? If so, what action have you taken to fight it? Comment below.


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