Whether you are the patient, the caregiver, or a family member, you might still be trying to make sense of the words “brain tumor.” You may be frightened or feel isolated. Depression caused by the loss of your previous lifestyle is a perfectly normal reaction to your situation. Just like any other symptom you may be experiencing, however, depression should be addressed and managed as soon as possible.
Everyone has felt sad or blue at some point in their lives. However, these feelings are usually short-lived and pass after a few days. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, major depression is persistent and can interfere with every aspect of daily life. Symptoms may include prolonged feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, insomnia, decreased energy, and even thoughts of suicide.
It is estimated that more than 25 percent of all patients with brain tumors suffer with major depressive disorder.
Current research shows that symptoms associated with depression are common in people with brain tumors as well as those who have undergone surgery to remove tumor tissue. These symptoms may increase over time.
It is critical that you are able to identify the signs and symptoms associated with depression. Your medical team is likely to focus on the treatment of the tumor and may miss the common signs of this illness, which can be a lot like common post-surgery side effects.
By carefully looking for symptoms of depression, you may be the first to identify this important issue and alert the doctor to your concerns. Your doctor can perform a formal evaluation, and, if you are diagnosed with depression, help you get effective treatment.
Treatment for depression typically consists of medication and/or “talk” therapy. It is important to note that untreated depression can slow the rates of recovery and cause other health problems.
It is not unusual for brain tumor symptoms to change over time. Be sure to discuss any new symptoms or changes in existing symptoms with your doctor or nurse as soon as possible.
It is important to note that the information provided here is basic and does not take the place of an in-person assessment by a physician. If there is any question about the seriousness of depression or any other symptom experienced, please contact your doctor.
Reference—1. Wellisch et al. Predicting Major Depression in Brain Tumor Patients. Psycho-Oncology. 2002;11:230-238.