Depression is a major side effect that can affect you as a myeloma patient at some point in your course of treatment. Depression in a myeloma patient undergoing treatment can be challenging to diagnose as various side effects such as fatigue, pain, and anemia may appear similar in both conditions. Your healthcare team will need to distinguish the difference between the symptoms associated with your myeloma treatment or clinical symptoms of depression. While feelings of sadness and anxiety are typical with the diagnosis of cancer,
it is imperative to discuss these symptoms with your healthcare team so they can help you appropriately. Signs and symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, anxious mood, sleeping too much, or too little, decreased appetite, weight loss or gain, restlessness, and feelings of despair or denial. Chronic disease such as cancer, medication side effects, gender, family history, situational events, biologic factors, and cognitive changes, such as poor self-esteem and negative thinking patterns, are all risk factors for depression.
Screening for Depression. There are several questionnaires available that your provider may use to assist in screening for depression. Once depression is correctly diagnosed, your clinician may find it necessary to start an antidepressant, or may refer you to a specialist such as a psychiatrist who specializes in oncology patients. It is also important to differentiate between depression and anxiety. If you have an oncology social worker available to you, they can be a valuable resource to assist you with related challenges of financial difficulties, such as insurance and housing issues, as well as social support. Many social workers are licensed counselors and can provide their services for patients and family members through counseling and group support sessions, usually without charge. Many cities also have local chapters with disease specific support groups such as monthly multiple myeloma support group meetings. To find a local support group (or to start one in your area) please all the IMF Hotline at 1-800-452-CURE for assistance (818-487-7455 outside of the US and Canada.) These meetings can be beneficial for both patients and caregivers. The NLB recommends asking the following questions during routine screening at all provider encounters to detect depression or other cognitive changes:
- Over the past two weeks have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?
- Over the past two weeks have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?
Please be sure to report any of these symptoms to your healthcare team.