Seeing your doctor

The first step to treating depression is to have an assessment with your cancer specialist or your GP.

Your assessment

Before your doctor can manage your depression they ask you about the history of your illness and depression.

Answering your doctor’s questions may seem like too much to deal with if you are feeling low or tired. You may feel that you just want your doctor to sort it out as quickly as possible. But it is extremely important that your doctor properly assesses your depression to make the right decisions about treating you.

You could ask a close friend or family member to come with you. It is important to be as honest as you can with your doctor and not play down how bad you are feeling.

Some questions your doctor might ask

  • When did you start feeling like this - has it got worse over time?
  • Does anything make you feel better or worse - for example, exercise, eating or pain?
  • Does your mood affect your daily living activities such as washing, cooking or walking and do you have any problems sleeping?
  • Do you have any other major problems in your life such as relationship problems, financial problems or work worries?
  • Do you have any other symptoms such as feeling or being sick, breathlessness or pain?
  • Is the depression made worse or better when you have treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • How long is it since you have had your bowels open and are you having any problems with passing urine?
  • Did you feel depressed before your cancer was diagnosed and have you suffered from depression in the past?
  • Has anyone in your family suffered from depression?
  • Have things ever been so bad that you felt like doing something to end it all?

Treatment options

Your doctor can prescribe drugs called antidepressants if you have depression. They might refer you to a doctor who specialises in treating people with emotional problems, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Many people get scared and feel that it is a weakness to see a psychologist or psychiatrist, but it isn't. It can take a lot of strength to admit that you are feeling depressed and that you may need someone to help you feel better.

You will not always feel this bad

It may be difficult to understand at the time, but it’s important to realise that you will not always feel this bad.

The most important thing is that you let your doctor or nurse know when you are feeling depressed. Don't be afraid to ask any questions you may have.

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