Depressed woman crying

Navigating depression when you have cancer

Cancer is a life-altering diagnosis that can take a toll on both the patient's physical and mental health. About 1 in 4 cancer patients experience depression, which is twice the rate of the general population. Managing both cancer and depression can be challenging, but there is hope. Here are several ways to navigate depression when you have cancer. 

  1. Speak to your health care team: If you think you might be depressed, speak to your health care team as soon as possible about your symptoms. These symptoms might include feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty focusing and thoughts of suicide. Your care team can help provide you with resources and support to manage depression. 
  2. Seek professional help: Depression is a lonely experience, but it is essential to remember that help does exist and is available to you. Speaking to a mental health professional can give you the opportunity to voice your struggle in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Mental health practitioners can also give you the necessary tools to begin managing and healing from depression.  
  3. Participate in support groups: Joining a support group can help you connect with others who are going through similar experiences. It can also provide you with a safe space to express your feelings and emotions. You can learn more about City of Hope’s cancer support groups here
  4. Take care of your physical health: Eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising can positively impact your mood and overall well-being. 
  5. Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and improve your mood and quality of life. This guided imagery meditation is a great place to start. 
  6. Make time for fun: Focus on activities that bring you joy and happiness, such as reading a book, watching a movie, spending time with loved ones or taking a walk in nature. 
  7. Lower your stress levels: Lowering your stress levels can help reduce depression symptoms. Try practicing stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga or tai chi. 

Cancer treatment can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, but it's essential to recognize and address depression symptoms. Speak to your health care team about your concerns and seek professional help if necessary. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network can help you manage depression symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. With the right resources and support, you can navigate these challenges.