Depression in Cancer

According to Printzcancer (2018), The ACTION study conducted by Shridevi Subramaniam found that more than 4 out of 5 patients self-reported having anxiety and depression a year after being diagnosed. Some factors that influenced the severity of the anxiety and depression the patients experienced included the type of cancer they had and how advanced their cancer was. Patients who had cancers in more advanced stages as well as patients with cancers that were more aggressive tended to report having higher levels of anxiety and depression (Printzcancer, 2018).

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Any terminal diagnosis is devastating for a patient and their family to receive. Buzgova, Jarosova, and Hajnova (2015) discuss how it can be difficult for healthcare providers to differentiate between a normal amount of sadness after the delivery of a terminal diagnosis and the development of depression. Nurses play a vital role in the ongoing assessment and early detection of anxiety and depression in these patients. This is because nursing staff builds a rapport with and has a continuing close relationship with the patient and family which gives them the ideal opportunity to screen for these changes and feelings (Buzgova, Jarosova, & Hajnova, 2015).

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According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (2017), some ways clinical depression can present itself are as a loss of hope, loss of interest in things you normally love, problems sleeping or sleeping all the time, unintentional and significant weight or appetite changes, suicidal thoughts or feelings, and preoccupation with death. If you notice any of these symptoms in any of your patients or their family members, get a trusted person like a doctor or counselor involved. Make sure they are safe and are not having suicidal thoughts or feelings. 

Depression and anxiety negatively impacts these patient’s quality of life in so many ways. It causes problems with their abilities to make decisions, creates caregiver distress, and can even manifest as physical symptoms (Buzgova, Jarosova, & Hajnova, 2015). It’s important that these symptoms or decline in quality of life are detected early on, that the patient’s mental health is advocated for, and that we work to help correct the causes of the decline (Buzgova, Jarosova, & Hajnova, 2015).

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In the Quad Cities area, there are resources like the Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities which has a location for weekly and monthly educational, social, or lifestyle (such as nutrition or stress management) meetings in person. They also offer many resources including a toll-free support hotline. All of these wonderful resources can be found at’s Club of the Quad Cities, n.d.).

Unity Point Health Trinity has put together an inclusive list of oncology resources that includes tons of local screenings, support groups, and many more online resource options (Unity Point Health, n.d). These can be found at

The American Cancer Society also has a spot on their website where your zip code can be entered to see what various resources are available in your area. I typed in “52802” for Davenport, Iowa and a long list of helpful resources came up. They have grief support groups listed, help with locating wigs, help with housing, lists for general assistance, anything the patient might need. There are over 50 pages of resources listed as well as 24-hour live chat and telephone assistance available to people in need (American Cancer Society, 2019a). . This immensely helpful page can be found here:

The American Cancer Society (2019b) talks about promoting physical activity as appropriate for their ability, making sure to help these patients do things that they love to do, and being there for and encouraging these patients are some of the most important things you can do for patients with cancer battling depression. 

If you or anyone you know is battling cancer and you have concerns, please reach out to them, seek medical help, but most of all please make sure that the person is safe!

You can call the National Suicide Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit them online at where they have resources for Spanish speaking, deaf and hard of hearing, veterans, disaster relief, and much more.

If you have any outstanding resources please share them here!




American Cancer Society. (2019a). Search for resources. Retrieved from

American Cancer Society. (2019b). Anxiety, fear, and depression: Having cancer affects your emotional health. Retrieved from

Buzgova, R., Jarosova, D., Hajnova, E. (2015). Assessing anxiety and depression with respect to the quality of life in cancer inpatients receiving palliative care. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 19, 667-672. doi: DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30669

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2017). Cancer-related depression: What is it and what can you do about it? Retrieved from

Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities. (n.d.). Our program. Retrieved from

Printzcancer, C. (2018).Studies show high anxiety and depression among individuals with cancer. American Cancer Society, 123(7), 1084-1085. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2015.04.006

Unity Point Health. (n.d.). Additional cancer support and resources in the Quad Cities. Retrieved from