Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine
"While it’s been reported five to 25% of cancer patients experience depressive symptoms at some point during their illness, research suggests the prevalence of clinically significant depression is at least 20% for ovarian cancer patients. In fact both depressive and anxiety symptoms appear to occur more frequently in ovarian cancer patients than in patients with other forms of cancer.
There are myriad possible reasons for this. But before I get to them I want to say this post is by no means meant to depress you or make you anxious. Quite the opposite, having spent many years researching depression and anxiety I’ve found over and again those suffering these ailments are much relieved to learn there could be a physiological component to their experience, at the very least much comfort has been afforded by learning they are not alone.
Certainly there are obvious psychodynamic reasons why women with ovarian cancer might experience more psychological distress: frequently the diagnosis comes late in the game when prognoses are not great; just as often there have been months – or more – of symptoms which have gone misdiagnosed and the resultant rage and betrayal that evokes can leave one feeling helpless and depressed; once diagnosed many women are shocked to find medical professionals still scratching their heads regarding adequate forms of detection and effective treatment of ovarian cancer; as mentioned in a previous post, all of the above has resulted in a public reaction of horror and discouragement upon hearing someone has been diagnosed with the disease (i.e., having your friends and loved ones gasp or tear up rather than take your hand and tell you success story after success story doesn’t help to boost one’s mood); and of course when a diagnosis of ovarian cancer comes before a woman has had all of the children she dreams of having there is that additional loss to bear.
But I have a theory there is something else at play. Other research suggests gynaecological cancers overall result in higher rates of depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders than do other forms of cancer. What do all gynaecological cancers have in common? A hysterectomy. It seems quite possible that the hormonal impact of losing one’s ovaries (and therefore oestrogen) could quite reasonably trigger depressive and anxiety symptoms (to say nothing of the pre- and peri-menopausal women for whom a hysterectomy leaves them unable to bear children as well as in sudden medical menopause). And of course for those women who experienced depressive or anxiety disorders prior to their diagnosis, battling cancer can very likely trigger further symptoms or a worsening of pre-existing ones.
These are guesses on my part as there has not been sufficient research done to investigate the psychological impact of cancer on women, never mind why ovarian cancer patients in particular struggle with increased rates of depression and anxiety. The good news is standard antidepressant treatment is effective in treating these symptoms, and certainly talk therapy, and support groups can be enormously helpful.
It seems important to acknowledge this trend not to scare women but to affirm their experience and bring into the open this possible dimension of the ovarian cancer journey. Just beginning the discussion will bring many women peace of mind."
bloody hell! therapy? er – I don't think so…I am so lucky to have all my 'girls' world wide to talk to – perhaps that is therapy in itself? Fellow bloggers, women on Ovacome, women on Facebook. I would run a mile at the thought of lying on a couch and talking to a person who has NO IDEA of what we are going through. And I certainly wouldn't pay for the privilege!
I really MUST fill my scrip for 'happy pills'..before I become depressed!