Fairview Range Blog

woman with cancer looking out window

Cancer & Depression: How to Spot the Signs Someone You Love Is Dealing with Depression

Cancer can wreak havoc on the body. Unfortunately, it can also impact the mind. Many people dealing with a cancer diagnosis also battle mental health strains. If a loved one has cancer and you have noticed their mood shift considerably, keep an eye out. It could be depression. While fighting cancer requires help from professionals, you can be helpful in spotting the signs of mental health battles. We’re covering your frequently asked questions when it comes to dealing with supporting family and friends with cancer. 

My friend was diagnosed with cancer and complains of not feeling well. What are the symptoms of depression? 

Depression is a medical disorder felt to be caused by a variety of things including biological, social, and psychological factors. It isn’t something a person can “snap out of.” 

Some individuals complain of feeling:

  • Sad, down, or hopeless
  • Irritable, angry, or numb
  • Lack of energy or motivation to care for oneself or do activities he or she previously enjoyed
  • Being withdrawn from friends/family
  • Having difficulty focusing and making decisions 

Memory issues, fatigue, loss of appetite and sexual problems can be symptoms associated with cancer treatments but are also signs of depression. Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. If they experience any of the symptoms listed, and especially if the feelings are present for two weeks or longer, encourage them to speak with their provider.

Are there other reasons that they may experience these symptoms?

It is possible there is another reason for the symptoms described. An underactive thyroid, low hemoglobin, or high calcium can also cause these feelings or signs. Pain and poor sleep can also contribute, among other reasons.

My loved one is done with treatment for cancer and still dealing with depression. Is this normal?

Yes. Depression is common after cancer treatment. Some patients feel their depression may worsen after treatment completion for many reasons. 

These reasons include: 

  • Worry about cancer recurrence now that treatment is done
  • Feeling less support compared to during treatment
  • Feeling “let go” by the cancer team since visits are less frequent 

These are all normal feelings.

What things can they do to help cope with depression? 

Exercise, yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, support groups, and counseling are ways to help cope with depression. If it applies, encourage them to reach out to a spiritual leader, minister, or someone in your faith community. They can also talk with their provider to see if any medication is recommended for managing or coping with depression. 

These are just a few ways to help manage depression. If you’re looking for more research, check out these online resources. 




If you feel your loved one is in crisis, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255


Subscribe to Email Updates

Latest Posts