Common in people with cancer, depression is a treatable mood disorder that may be accompanied by physical, behavioral and cognitive symptoms. If depression is prolonged or severe, functioning can be impaired. “Depression may make it harder to cope with cancer treatment. It may also interfere with your ability to make choices about your care. As a result, identifying and managing depression are important parts of cancer treatment.”1
From The Ecology of Breast Cancer:2
Depression is not only important psychologically but also can increase inflammation and alter some immune system functions.3 This can promote conditions for tumor growth, invasion and metastasis.
Depression may make it harder to cope with cancer treatment. It may also interfere with your ability to make choices about your care.
Many complementary approaches can be helpful for depression. The Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines list the following evidence-based integrative therapies for depression:6
- Exercise or physical activity
- Massage from a therapist trained in oncology massage
- Mind-body approaches such as these:
Supportive-Expressive Therapy (SET) has also been effective in research studies. SET is a type of group therapy that promotes social support among the group members and encourages them to express emotions and fears related to their disease, focusing on facing and grieving losses.
Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems
|For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.|
Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and reviewed by Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on October 18, 2018.
- Cancer.Net. Depression
- SIO: clinical practice guidelines
- Deng GE, Frenkel M et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: complementary therapies and botanicals. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2009 Summer;7(3):85-120.
- Deng GE, Rausch SM et al. Complementary therapies and integrative medicine in lung cancer: diagnosis and management of lung cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2013 May;143(5 Suppl):e420S-e436S.
- Greenlee H, DuPont-Reyes MJ et al. Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017 May 6;67(3):194-232.
- UK Royal College of Anaesthetists, Macmillan Cancer Support, and the National Institute for Health Research Cancer and Nutrition Collaboration: Prehabilitation for People with Cancer
- Block KI, Block PB, Gyllenhaal C: Integrative Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
- Integrative Cancer Review
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: Fighting Cancer from Within
- September 2018 Issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Wayne Jonas, MD: Your Healing Journey: A Patient’s Guide to Integrative Breast Cancer Care
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- Ted Schettler, MD, MPH: The Ecology of Breast Cancer: The Promise of Prevention and the Hope for Healing
- Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Fang Fu, Huaijuan Zhao, Feng Tong, and Iris Chi: A Systematic Review of Psychosocial Interventions to Cancer Caregivers
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: Fighting Cancer