Are the experts aware of a link between cancer and depression, or mental health issues?
Yes, this is well-documented. About 25% of people with a cancer diagnosis can become depressed, and it can affect other family members. So, certainly this is something that people do not need to be ashamed of, and this is why the psychology services have been put into cancer.
In my area it’s a group of clinical psychologists dealing specifically with cancer and palliative care patients. I can also recommend the HOPE programme. For anybody who doesn’t know what HOPE stands for, it’s Help in Overcoming Problems Effectively. They’re programmes put on for people when they’ve finished their treatment, because this is recognised as a time when people feel like, ‘Now who’s worrying about me?’
The clinical nurse specialist should always be there for you too, and you can always come back. Certainly, I sometimes pick up problems months down the line, even maybe a year or two, where people are struggling psychologically. We can look at services which they didn’t feel they needed to access in the beginning, because people are so preoccupied with their treatment and keeping positive, and their friends are all rallying around. Their family are all worrying about them, and suddenly we’re encouraging them to get back to normal, and they’re not sure what normal is anymore.