Managing Depression Amid a Cancer Diagnosis

Any serious diagnosis can be difficult for patients to manage and cancer is no exception. When asked about the mental health of cancer patients, Melanie Sisulak, CRNP, at Clearview Cancer Institute, concluded that the majority of cancer patients experience depression during their treatment. According to Sisulak, depression can be a silent struggle that often goes unnoticed or underestimated, yet its impact can be profound, affecting not only the patient’s mental well-being but also their physical health and overall outcomes.

“I think that every cancer patient at some point in their journey certainly experiences sadness. There is a loss of the person that they were before they ever received that diagnosis,” said Sisulak. “It can impact our daily life, it can cause hopelessness, a loss of sense of worth. It can decrease motivation.”

In regard to when a patient may experience depression in their cancer journey, Sisulak said that the journey is individualized and specific to each patient. The journey can be long, and a patient may experience depression in the beginning stages of a diagnosis, when they begin going through treatments, or even upon remission.

Identifying depression amidst the chaos of cancer treatment can be challenging, as symptoms may overlap with the side effects of treatment itself. However, it’s essential to pay attention to persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair that linger beyond the expected ups and downs. Other signs may include changes in appetite or sleep patterns, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Sisulak says her best advice for cancer patients who are dealing with depression is to talk to their healthcare team. Many cancer facilities, like Clearview Cancer Institute, have support groups which can be beneficial to patients.

“We care about you. We want to help you,” said Sisulak. “For many patients, surrounding themselves with others who have a similar situation and discussing what they are going through can be helpful.”

Sisulak also shared that some patients are referred to a licensed counselor or placed on medication, while others seek out spiritual help for their depression.

The care team at Clearview Cancer Institute is prepared to walk alongside patients during their battle with cancer and manage symptoms, including depression. For additional information, please speak with your healthcare team and explore Clearview Cancer Institute’s home webpage for local resources.