Friday, 13 November 2009

Ovarian Cancer Takes to The Stage – quoted from the Whisper Network

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!


  1. Frankly, I am amazed that I feel so good emotionally, mentally, physically, just 3 months post-chemo. I don't think I experienced depression even back then...just the lethargy, aches, pains, etc., plus being just totally stunned by the unexpectedness of it all. But I don't think I was ever depressed. I am grateful for that. For I do know what depression is like, having experienced it some 22 years ago.

  2. I know - I don't recall feeling depressed either - just stunned. Other Planet Type Thing.

    then again, who knows? I might be, but might not know it?

  3. Well I wish I could say the same for me; but I did the happy pills at first and they didn't quite work right; then found some that did for a little while then they stopped working; got another prescription and those didn't work either; then got me a dog and all was better for me. Then getting sicker over the years (over 3), more hospitalizations and surgeries and then getting the horrible talk; I had to get me some happy pills and now all is good again for me!

    Thanks for shedding more light on this and I bet so many women are living with depression while fighting this disease and not really realizing it.

    Thanks for shedding some light on this; this type of cancer is not so easy to deal with as it is a shock and then add more insult to injuries.

  4. I'm amazed that the percentage is as low as 25%! Maybe it's not all reported.

    I suffered from depression after my Mam died of Leukaemia and my son was born with a congenital heart defect. I didn't dare take medication which made me drowsy as I had a baby and no one to look after him or really talk to. I became obsessed with having cancer and dying and wondering whether he would die too. Goodness knows how I would have coped if I really had developed it.

    You all sound as if together you're better than all the therapists and medication in the world. Love and best wishes to you all for many happy and healthy years ahead.

  5. thanks Winifred - we have a sense of humour bar none - I think that helps a lot. So sorry about your mum - it must be so hard to get your head around that.

    How is your son now?


If you would like to comment on anything in this blog, or share your own thoughts, feel free, I would love to hear from you.