Health of the Whole: Why Treating the Physical and Psychological Apects of Cancer Matters

Why Treating the Physical and Psychological Apects of Cancer Matters

Restaurateur Dennis Serras looks back on his life before esophageal cancer and realizes: Most of the low periods he experienced were more likely the result of a really bad day than depression.ThriveW13-3

Everything changed—for Serras and his family—when his surgeon Mark Orringer, M.D., came into his hospital room with news that, despite his successful surgery, cancer cells were discovered on the outside of his esophagus. This meant a second round of chemo and radiation.

“This really sent me into a tailspin,” Serras said. “After two days of chemotherapy, I couldn’t take it. The depression was awful. It encompasses you 100 percent and you can’t do anything about it.”

Serras ended up in the care of Michelle Riba, M.D., who leads a team of mental health professionals with a thorough understanding of cancer treatments and the emotional aspects surrounding cancer.

“Many of the traditional symptoms of depression overlap with the symptoms of cancer, such as fatigue, weight changes, sleep problems, lack of concentration, lack of energy and guilt,” Riba says. “Each patient must be evaluated properly, in the context of the cancer itself, as part of fully integrated care that links physical treatment and the psychological needs of individuals.”

Serras overcame his depression through a combination of talk therapy and medication and is still adjusting to his life’s new normal as a cancer survivor.

Myths about depression:

  • Everyone with cancer becomes depressed
  • Men do not get depressed
  • My emotions aren’t severe enough to need help
  • Depression and anxiety come hand in hand
  • Having a good prognosis means you won’t get depressed
  • Support groups are for everyone
  • Being anxious means you have a psychiatric problem
  • Depression lasts forever
  • Depression makes you incompetent
  • People with depression want to be alone

Learn more about Cancer Center programs to deal with the distress of cancer.