If battling with cancer was not enough, the many months of Covid-19 lockdowns certainly escalated the period of depression in cancer patients and as we enter the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial to not let the patients delay their routine check-ups and screening any further to avoid chances of advanced cases in the future. Active lifestyle, healthy eating and avoiding addictions will continue to be cornerstones of cancer prevention but focusing on early detection and prompt treatment will probably save many more lives.
Factors like prevalent sedentary lifestyle, impact on mental health and lack of preventive health check-ups have added to the burden of people suffering with cancer during Covid-19 times. It is a known fact that a large number of people with cancer tend to experience depression before, during or after cancer treatment and for many, a low mood may continue or get worse which may suggest that they have depression and need help to overcome it.
Depression is a type of mood disorder that will make it challenging for you to cope with cancer treatment, turn your world upside down and impact your ability to do the daily chores with ease which may lead to a lot of emotional distress. The bouts of depression can make your entire experience with cancer more difficult. Depression can be related to cancer or because of the side effects seen due to the treatment.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Suhas Aagre, Oncologist and Hemato-Oncologist at Asian Cancer Institute, suggested that we watch out for these signs since the episodes of depression can be temporary or long-lasting and severe in cancer patients:
1. Mood-related changes seen in cancer patients are: Feeling low, irritated, hopeless, restless, irritated, sad, and even worthless. One will have mood swings.
2. Behavioural issues can be: Crying for no particular reason, loneliness, loss of interest in daily activities and even the things one enjoys, and frustration.
3. Cognitive signs to watch out for are trouble focusing, memory problems, negativity, insufficient sleep, poor appetite, and inability to make concrete decisions.
4. Other red flags are feeling empty from within, guilt, weight loss or weight gain and tiredness.
Tips to overcome depression in cancer patients:
According to Dr Suhas Aagre, “Managing depression in those with cancer can be done via counselling, medication or a combination of both. Do not stop the therapy abruptly. A proper line of treatment can improve the quality of life of a cancer patient with depression. Some anti-depressants can react with other medicines. So, talk to your doctor about them. Apart from taking treatment, one will have to embrace a healthy lifestyle.”
He added, “Try to stick to a well-balanced diet inclusive of all the essential nutrients, and exercising on a daily basis is also the best way to get rid of depression. But, do not do any heavy workouts. Ask your doctor before starting any fitness regimen. However, walking can be a good idea. Stay stress-free by doing yoga or meditation. Join a support group or talk to other people to know how they are coping with depression. Do deep-breathing exercises on daily basis without fail. Engage in activities that you enjoy, and have an optimistic approach.”
Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist at Mumbai’s Wockhardt Hospitals, advised, “Overcoming depression even in cancer can be achieved by changing the way one perceives thoughts and sometimes with some medical help. Understanding one’s emotions and accepting the current state becomes important. Expressing how the person feels, and what is making him/her feel anxious or scared are some things to explore. Family and friend support has an important role to play. Confiding in a close person can give a different perspective.”
For early healing, she further recommended, “Discussing treatment options and getting involved in overall health parameters also help. Some sort of daily routine, acceptable exercises, Yoga, and meditation are essentials for early healing. Sometimes depression can be biological and may require a visit with a mental health professional. Being aware of signs of depression and meeting a psychiatrist on time is crucial. Psychotherapy and sometimes anti-depressants can come to the rescue in most cases.”