Battling depression and cancer

By Amy Wimmer Schwarb • Published: September 2nd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Make no mistake: A cancer diagnosis is jarring and life-changing. But researchers now have even more reason to believe that when the newly diagnosed are arming themselves for what just might be the fight of their lives, they should first focus on the battle within themselves.

Depression and stress take their toll on the minds and bodies of cancer patients. A number of recent studies have explored the relationship between managing stress and depression and fighting cancer. And in some cases, the clear link is remarkable.

New research from the Netherlands, for example, revealed that depressed cancer survivors are twice as likely to die prematurely than patients who don’t battle depression along with their cancer. A separate study led by the University of Texas linked the presence of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to depression, with a higher risk of death among late-stage cancer patients.

Some researchers say the next step is to investigate why depressive symptoms are so clearly tied to cancer deaths. Others say they now plan clinical trials to look at outcomes for cancer patients who are treated for mood disorders.

But while the researchers continue to do their jobs, cancer patients have a job to do, too.

To get mentally fit and prepared for the battle ahead, follow these tips for reducing the risk of depression … Exercise. Surround yourself with positive relationships. Eat right. Drink alcohol sparingly. Get plenty of sleep.

Consider some therapy to help you retool how you approach stress-inducing situations. And spend some time in your own head, either through yoga, meditation or prayer.

When you’re battling cancer, investing in your mind can reap rewards for your body.