Depression After Uterine Cancer Treatment
Many women experience depression after being treated for uterine cancer, but we've got tips to help you cope.
By Malinda Gibbons-Gwyn
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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After uterine cancer treatment, most women expect their lives to return to normal. However, many find that it doesn't work that way. They worry that the uterine cancer will return, or that they can't pay their medical bills. They may have self-esteem and body-image issues related to weight gain during treatment, and they may struggle to regain sexual intimacy.
All of these issues can be overwhelming. Sadness and grief are common emotional reactions in women who have had uterine cancer treatment. But some women experience depression — in fact, major depression affects about 25 percent of cancer patients.
Uterine Cancer: Signs of Depression
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression, so that you can get help more quickly. Signs of depression include:
- No interest in normal activities
- Crying for long periods of time
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Feelings of worthlessness
How Can You Manage Depression after Uterine Cancer Treatment?
Support groups.Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. Many of these are facilitated by licensed therapists who specialize in the issues of women with uterine cancer. Some groups not only provide emotional support, but also transportation resources, financial resources, and home care. One research study showed that psychological symptoms were worse during the first six weeks of recovery (and tended to last longer) in women who had poor social support.
Online groups.Another option is to join an online support group, such as the uterine cancer support group at EverydayHealth.com. These groups provide easy, daily access and anonymity.
One-on-one counseling.If you need additional help, choose a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in cancer support for women. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for anxiety and depression. Also, you can consult with your clergy or spiritual advisor.
Talk to your family openly and stay busy.Surround yourself with family and talk to them openly. Open communication among family members can help reduce your anxiety. One study showed that uterine cancer survivors who were unemployed or living alone were especially at risk for mental health difficulties.
Gather accurate information.If you know what to expect after your treatment, you will probably feel better about your recovery process. Micheline Toussaint, a psychotherapist at the Life With Cancer Center, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Inova Health Systems in Fairfax, Va., says women should be careful about the source of their medical information. Look for information in reputable sources you trust. Toussaint also encourages her patients to talk to other women about their experience after uterine cancer treatment.
Be as healthy as possible, physically and mentally.Elizabeth Hudler, MD, a psychiatrist at Psychiatric Centers of San Diego and Sharp Healthcare, encourages her patients to "eat healthy, exercise, and socialize." Dr. Hudler adds that most of her cancer patients are "spunky, resourceful, and positive," which helps in their recovery.
Consider complementary therapies.Toussaint says that some women feel betrayed by their bodies. She uses yoga to help women regain control of their bodies and spirit. Toussaint also uses meditation to help women "become aware of their thoughts. … once they learn to identify negative, helpless and hopeless thought patterns, they can begin to change." Her program gives women many different therapy options, such as movement therapy, writing, qi gong (pronounced "chee gong"), tai chi, massage, and reiki.
It All Adds Up
These lifestyle recommendations not only help you deal with depression, but they help you lead a healthier lifestyle overall. Make the extra effort to surround yourself with support, and don't be afraid to ask for help during this time.
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