Depression (definition of)
Clinical depression affects between 15% to 25% of cancer patients. Depression can result from a family history of depression as well as a prior personal history. However, for cancer patients, contributing factors include the fear of death, interruption of life plans, changes in body image, changes in social role and lifestyle, and in the United States, money and legal concerns.
Clinical depression should not be confused with normal feelings of sadness and grief that are to be expected with a diagnosis of cancer. Most patients will experience normal feelings of anxiety and loss of sleep and appetite as well as concern about the future. After an adjustment period however, patients should be able to make the adjustment and incorporate their cancer treatments into the everyday lives. However, some people begin to lose all interest in their lives and turn inward, experiencing intense feelings of hopelessness and despair.
The most common type of depression experienced by cancer patients is known as "reactive depression." It is marked by a general sense of moodiness and an inability to engage in usual activities. Eventually, these symptoms may disrupt the person's entire life as well as the lives of those around him/her. Such depression may call for clinical intervention, including counseling and medication.
A patient's lack of energy and a diminished level of activity should not be confused with depression; this is often simply due to the fatigue resulting from the cancer, like mesothelioma, and its treatments.