Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday's health link

Just one link today: Can depression influence breast cancer survival?

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am going through a blue phase. Christmas is a hard time of year for many of us, though normally not for me. Yes, I get stressed and find it hard to do everything and see everyone I want to; but I am generally quite happy throughout the season. This year, however, I feel sad and am having trouble shaking it. 

But I want to. I really, really, really want to. So I am reading about, talking and, most importantly I think, acknowledging depression. My hope is that shining a light on it will take away some of its hold. And if I feel like its getting worse or not going away, I'm going to seek professional help. 

Now a study out of the University of Calgary here in Canada has given me extra incentive to fight harder for my happy. Turns out, women who suffer from depression following a breast cancer diagnosis have a harder time fighting this disease. While they don't know exactly what is behind this, they do know that depression can put stresses on the body in many ways  that are linked to cancer progression, from decreasing immune function to increasing inflammation. According to lead researcher Janine Giese-Davis,"When these physiological changes become chronic, we believe that they may deplete the resources of the body, making it more difficult for patients to recover." 

Researchers have found that more than half of cancer patients go through some form of depression, and around 38 percent develop major depression. In this study, the researchers focused on more than 100 women who had recently received a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, cancer that has begun spreading to other parts of the body. Half the patients underwent weekly group therapy and all received education materials. Participants reported their depression symptoms at four, eight and 12 months. The researchers found that half of those whose depression symptoms decreased over the first year lived at least another four and a half years, compared to just over two years for half of those with worsening symptoms. Reduction in depression also raised the chances of longer-term survival, in this case more than 14 years, by as much as 68 percent. There didn't seem to be a connection between the severity of the depression and later survival, or between the method used to deal with depression, i.e. therapy or medication. The only thing that seemed to matter was the decrease over time in the symptoms of depression.

The ultimate finding for researchers? Doctors, patients and their families need to be aware that chronic depression can have an impact on survival. Giese-Davis says that while it is normal for patients to feel anger, sadness and fear, talking openly about those feelings could be helpful, and that overcoming depression will "improve your quality of life, your social relationships, healthy behaviors, and your ability to follow through on your doctor's recommendations." 

So what am I doing about this? Today I am baking cookies with my boys, going on an adventure, singing  Christmas carols and getting some exercise. And if you call me to see how I am doing, I will probably tell you that I am feeling a little sad. Bear with me. :-)

Question: How do you deal with depression?

1 comment:

  1. I think that your comment about shining a light on it will take away some of its hold is true... When I was in a depression, it wasn't until I came to understand that I was in a depression, began to talk about it, and sought professional help, that I began to heal. So good for you for acknowledging it and being honest with yourself and others. Let me know if there is anything that you need.