Scientists find INTRICATE connection between breast cancer and depression

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breast-cancer-and-depression(NaturalHealth365)  It is estimated that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.  That’s about 13% of the population.  A cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling scared, overwhelmed, and stressed but researchers are now drawing a link between breast cancer and depression while making an unsettling discovery.

A review and analysis of several studies, published in August 2020 in Molecular Psychiatry found depression affects breast cancer in several ways:

  • Recurrence of cancer – 24% increase
  • All-cause mortality – 30% increase
  • Breast cancer-specific mortality – 2% increase

Pay attention:  These symptoms could indicate a  more serious problem than sadness

Sadness is a normal emotion in its appropriate context.  Everyone gets sad now and then and that sadness may last a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days.  We, humans, are emotional creatures and sadness is just a part of our emotional palette.  But when those feelings drag on for a week or more and interfere with your daily life, it is becoming a problem.

Depression is very common and just about everyone experiences symptoms of depression from time to time.  The symptoms can be subtle, but when you can tick just four or five boxes on this list, you are likely dealing with depression.

  • Sadness that drags on
  • Difficulty finding the good in things
  • Difficulty finding anything good in your life
  • Change in appetite – increase or decrease
  • Change in weight – increase or decrease
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Fatigue
  • “Heavy” feeling like it’s too much effort to get up, move, etc.
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Thoughts that the world would be better without you in it
  • Unable to get up to go to work, take care of kids, etc.
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Brain fog or difficulty sorting your thoughts
  • Breathing, blinking your eyes, everything feels like work
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability or lack of patience
  • Feelings of being dull or that the world is dull, colorless
  • Ruminating on your situation, events, the past, etc.
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea
  • Feelings of emptiness

If these feelings and symptoms persist, especially past about ten days or two weeks, or if your feelings continue to intensify, you are likely experiencing serious depression.

What is at the root of your depression?

Many people cite an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain as the cause of depression.  However, while brain chemicals do play a part, there are other factors that impact your mood and mental health as well:

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  • Medications you take (including opiates for pain, and certain hormonal therapy medications)
  • Poor dietary and /or an inability to sleep well
  • Cancer treatments like chemotherapy
  • Your brain’s mood regulation is faulty
  • Stressful life events
  • You have a genetic vulnerability
  • Medical conditions or issues

A diagnosis of breast cancer is an extremely stressful life event.  The condition itself can cause or exacerbate depression, as can cancer medications.  When you put that all together, it’s no surprise that a person with breast cancer may experience depression.

But knowing the impact that depression has on your prognosis, it is important to take steps to manage your depression, so you have the strength to fight.

Here are 5 ways to manage depression while managing breast cancer

If you feel that you are depressed, talk to an integrative physician.  Together you can discuss your symptoms and feelings, then sort it out to determine if you are indeed depressed or if you are experiencing severe fatigue from the chemo and medications.

It is important to keep digging until you find out what is causing your depression.  It could be a hormonal issue, your meds, the entire situation, fear, grief, or any combination.  Finding the source though will allow you to treat the root of the problem instead of just putting a band-aid on it.  You may need to change medications and your doctor may prescribe you antidepressant medication or suggest working with a health coach.

No doubt, managing cancer is tough enough.  But, managing cancer and depression is too much.  Try these tips to manage depression while you manage cancer.

  1. Keep healthy habits.  Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, all these things help keep you balanced and healthy, inside and out.
  2. Get social.  While your first impulse may be to isolate yourself, resist that urge!  Spend time with family and friends and surround yourself with the people who love you.
  3. Set realistic goals.  Break large chores into several smaller ones.  Don’t try to do it all in a day.  You don’t have to do it all, and you shouldn’t, so don’t try.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a small notebook that you use to write down the things you are thankful for.  You can write about people or things you are thankful for, paste pictures in there, or add mementos, jokes, comics, anything that makes you smile.
  5. Talk to someone.  Talk to a health coach, therapist, pastor, friend, someone who will let you vent and help you work through all the feelings that you are dealing with.

Depression doesn’t have to be part of your cancer journey.  If you are experiencing feelings of depression or sadness that won’t go away, don’t wait to see what happens.  Talk to your doctor and begin taking steps to manage it.

Remember, you don’t have to accept depression as just a part of cancer, fight back.  You can find your joy again.

Sources for this article include:

BreastCancer.org
Nature.com
NIH.gov
BMJ.com
Health.Harvard.edu
BreastCancer.org
FredHutch.org


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