A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience. It creates uncertainty and a fear of the unknown. This holds especially true for people battling breast cancer. The disease can be painful and the course of treatment, uncomfortable. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s natural to feel sadness and uncertainty along with a wide range of other complex emotions. Sometimes the feelings that accompany a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and persistent, leading to a secondary diagnosis of clinical depression. In fact, close to 50% of people diagnosed with breast cancer experience depression and its cousin, anxiety. While depression is treatable under the care and direction of a doctor, it presents a unique problem for those currently undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Breast cancer, as with any major health diagnosis, presents not only physical challenges but significant emotional and psychological ones as well. While facing the uncertainty and fears that cancer brings, it’s not uncommon for individuals to confront symptoms of depression. At Prime Behavioral Health, with our wide array of services ranging from TMS Therapy and psychiatric care to treating neurodevelopmental disorders and schizophrenia, we are keenly aware of the intricate relationship between physical health and mental well-being. Here, we provide a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the complexities of depression while battling breast cancer.
- Understanding the Link:
Breast cancer and depression are unfortunately interconnected. The strain of diagnosis, treatment, and the possibility of recurrence can exacerbate feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. Recognizing that your emotions are valid and natural is the first step toward managing them.
- Seek Professional Support:
It’s essential to have a holistic approach to your care. While oncologists focus on your physical health, a psychiatrist or therapist can provide strategies and treatments for mental well-being. Prime Behavioral Health offers dedicated psychiatric consultations that can help guide you through this challenging phase.
- Consider Medication:
For some, antidepressants can be a useful tool in the fight against depression. Our experts at Prime Behavioral Health can prescribe the right medications and ensure diligent follow-up, ensuring that the medication complements your cancer treatments.
- Explore TMS Therapy:
TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Therapy is an innovative treatment for depression. It’s a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. For those who might not benefit from standard antidepressant medications, TMS can be an effective alternative.
- Stay Connected:
The power of human connection can’t be underestimated. Engage with supportive friends, family, or support groups. They provide a platform for sharing feelings, experiences, and coping mechanisms.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:
While undergoing treatment, try to maintain a balanced diet, engage in gentle exercises, and ensure proper sleep. Physical health can profoundly impact mental well-being.
- Educate Yourself:
Understanding your diagnosis and treatment can give a sense of control. Prime Behavioral Health believes in empowering patients with knowledge. From understanding neurodevelopmental disorders to schizophrenia, we advocate for patient education across all spectrums of mental health.
- Practice Mindfulness and Meditation:
These techniques can reduce stress, increase awareness, and improve emotional health. They can be particularly beneficial in managing the anxieties stemming from a breast cancer diagnosis.
- Stay Hopeful:
Every individual’s journey with breast cancer is unique, and advances in both treatment and support mean that many people find strength and resilience they never knew they had.
- Remember You’re Not Alone:
Prime Behavioral Health is committed to walking with you on this journey. With our dedicated team, inclusive of renowned professionals like Dr. Vishal Shah, our commitment is to ensure that every individual gets the comprehensive care they need.
Battling breast cancer is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right resources and support, combating depression during this period becomes more manageable. Remember, seeking help is a testament to strength, not weakness. At Prime Behavioral Health, we’re here to guide, support, and advocate for your holistic well-being every step of the way.
The Challenge of Treating Depression and Breast Cancer Concurrently
Clinical depression is an entirely different condition from “feeling sad.” Sadness arises in response to external factors; it is short-lived and responsive. Depression, on the other hand, is a long-term condition marked by a lack of energy, restlessness, irritability, a loss of interest in normal activities, changing sleep patterns, lapses in concentration, and in some cases more severe symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts or ideation.
Doctors normally use antidepressant medications as a frontline intervention for patients diagnosed with clinical depression. Common antidepressants fall into a few main categories. Those categories include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
SSRIs and SNRIs are by far the most commonly prescribed alternatives. You might recognize medications brands such as Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, or Lexapro. Each of these medications falls into either the SSRI or SNRI category. However, attempting to treat breast cancer patients with these particular medications presents a problem for those who are estrogen receptive positive (ER Positive): key chemical components in many SSRIs interfere with the effectiveness of one of breast cancer’s main treatment methods.
A anti-estrogen medication called Tamoxifen is used to mitigate the risk of relapse in breast cancer patients who’ve undergone surgery or chemotherapy. It is also used as a preventative for people who are at high risk for developing breast cancer in the first place. Tamoxifen is a SERM, which stands for selective estrogen receptor modulator. Tamoxifen use prevents recurrent cancer by up to 50% in women who’ve already undergone menopause.
In order to be effective, however, Tamoxifen must be metabolized by the CYP2D6 liver enzyme. The problem with SSRIs occurs because many SSRIs act as CYP2D6 inhibitors, essentially blocking that metabolization from happening. A Breast Cancer Research study found that patients who took both Tamoxifen and an SSRI experienced a 27% increase in the likelihood of recurrent breast cancer and, ultimately, mortality. In this study, the SSRIs being taken prevented the SERMs from having a positive effect on the cancer patient’s body. Therefore, taking an antidepressant during post-chemotherapy cancer treatment must be done in careful consultation with your doctor.
Knowing this, physicians generally avoid prescribing known CYP2D6-inhibitors to current, former, and potential breast cancer patients. There are medication options which are less likely to conflict with breast cancer treatment. But what if the prescribed medications don’t do enough? Or don’t do anything? Or the side effects you experience simply make the medications unusable? Fortunately, there are options that may augment or even replace the need for medications.
Effective Depression Treatment Alternative: TMS Therapy
When antidepressants aren’t enough or aren’t good options, there is still an effective medical option available: TMS therapy.
TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation. TMS therapy is an FDA-approved treatment method that’s performed by a licensed psychiatrist. The process is noninvasive, with no systemic side effects (no weight gain, no loss of libido) and patients are able to drive immediately following the procedure.
The technique itself is simple. The patient sits comfortably upright while a magnetic coil is placed over the front of their head. The gentle magnetic currents help the brain’s prefrontal cortex release key chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, that help combat the chemical imbalances that cause long-term depression. Most patients experience few — if any — side effects, and the time constraints of treatment are minimal. The patient can expect to engage in the TMS therapy 5 times a week at 18 minutes per treatment for 6 weeks. After that, only a yearly checkup is required. That makes TMS therapy the perfect option for many patients who are already dealing with the difficult task of breast cancer treatment and recovery.
Holistic Methods to Help Combat Depression
Whether or not you are being treated with medication and/or TMS therapy, there are a few other holistic methods you can use to help mitigate your depressive symptoms. Some of those techniques include:
- Increasing your level of exercise
- Meditation, prayer, and spirituality
- Eating a healthy diet
- Avoiding alcohol
- Seeking formal therapy options
Many of these options can effectively reduce depressive symptoms, especially when they are used in conjunction with one another, TMS therapy, and/or medication. The main idea is to begin addressing everyday issues that contribute to long-term depression. If holistic lifestyle changes on their own are not enough to help you manage your depression, it may be a good idea to discuss the benefits of medication and/or TMS therapy with your physician.
Prime Behavioral Health specializes in administering TMS therapy to patients of all types, including those battling breast cancer and suffering from depressive symptoms concurrently. We can also help determine what other methods may help with combatting your depression. To find out more about TMS therapy, contact Prime Behavioral Health today.
For personalized consultations or to learn more about our services, reach out to Prime Behavioral Health at 817-778-8884. Your journey to holistic well-being is our utmost priority.