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How To Cope With Depression After Breast Cancer - Howdini

By Howdini
 
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More Videos from Howdini 30 videos in this series

If you are being treated for breast cancer, you probably know how you are doing physically. But how are you doing emotionally? Many women battling breast cancer are also battling depression whether they know it or not. Dr. Mary Jane Massie, Attending Psychiatrist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center talks to us about breast cancer and depression.

I'm Lisa Birnbach. If you're being treated for breast cancer, you may know exactly how you're doing physically. But how are you doing emotionally? Many women battling breast cancer are also battling depression, whether they know it or not. With us to discuss depression and breast cancer is Dr. Mary Jane Massie, psychiatrist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York. Dr. Massie, thank you so much for joining us today. Is depression more common in breast cancer patients during the treatment or afterwards?

We know that about 25% of cancer patients will have depression at some time during the course of their illness. We don't exactly know when that first might be noticed by the patient or her family or her doctors. But about a quarter of all women with breast cancer is going to be depressed at some point during the illness.

How do you identify it as depression, as opposed to anxiety over their disease?

We do know that many people who are depressed have anxiety as a large component of their depression. So sometimes people will tell their doctors that they're feeling anxious. But when we have a chance to talk with them, what we really hear is that in addition to anxiety, this woman is experiencing a lot of sadness, a lot of low mood, sleeplessness, insomnia, trouble concentrating. And those are classic symptoms of depression.

So why do some women get depressed after they've completed treatment?

Some women, when they are told that they have their diagnosis of breast cancer, have so much on their plate, they have so much to do. And there really isn't time simply to let oneself think just about breast cancer. So what we see are some women actually kind of sail through their whole treatment. And it isn't until they've completed their treatment for breast cancer that they really have a chance to sit back and say, my goodness. What's this been all about? So some women really, at the end of treatment, or a year after the end of treatment, first start to experience sadness, depressive symptoms.

Dr. Massie, after some patients complete treatment, they feel they should be elated. And that's when they get socked with the depression.

And there really shouldn't be any shoulds about this. We feel what we feel. Breast cancer treatment can be very exhausting for many people. And fatigue is often what women talk about. So hard to be elated when you're experiencing physical reactions to treatment.

And tired can present as sadness sometimes, can't it?

Very much can present as sadness. And women become worried about themselves. They become worried about their moods, because they may never have experienced themselves as so unable to do the things that they wanted to do, that they enjoyed doing in the past.

So what are some of the warning signs that, let's say, a loved one who's dealing with breast cancer really may be succumbing to depression?

What women notice is that they are not the person that they used to be. They are unable to approach activities or their job or child care with the same enthusiasm or gusto. And sometimes women feel that I've been blue before in the past, but I bounced out of it. And I'm not bouncing out of this anymore.

So treatment for these women?

Fortunately, we have so many treatments, and treatments that are effective for women who have depression or anxiety or both of those symptoms. I think that most cancer centers and most communities have breast cancer groups, led by leaders or leaderless groups, where women have an opportunity to talk with other women. Some women prefer more individual work, so talking on one-to-one may be the most useful for some patients. We have many medications for anxiety, or many medications for depression. These medications are effective. Sometimes a medication will treat both anxiety and depressive symptoms and help relieve problems with sleep or insomnia.

And finally, what can family or loved ones do?

We in the medical community welcome the opportunity to get to know families, to talk with families about how they're coping. And in fact, most cancer centers have groups for families. Or there are individual counselors who will sit down with family members, who usually want to talk through how can I do the best job I possibly can in helping my loved one get through this illness. But they may also want to talk about how stressful this is for them. There's good help that's available for people.

That's important to know. Thank you so much, Dr. Massie.

For more information, please go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure at www.komen.org, or call the Komen for the Cure helpline at 1-800-IM AWARE. I'm Lisa Birnbach.

Howdini is life’s little instruction manual, in HD. We’re all about bringing together the top, most respected experts in their fields to help us be the best we can be at all of the little and not-so-little challenges of our complicated lives. Howdini is the place to be for the know-how you want, when you need it. Or maybe it’s the know-how you need, when you want it. Whatever. We’re here to help. So come in and look around, won’t you?

We think you’ll love finding everything you want to learn about in one convenient place, and as we grow and add more categories and more Howdinis, you’ll be doing less surfing and more learning right here. And unlike television, Howdinis aren’t limited by time—we don’t have to break for commercials, and we’re always on.

Who is Howdini?

People often ask us, is there an actual person who is Howdini? And the answer is, it’s kind of like Lassie. Just as there were many Lassies, there are many individuals who are called Howdini. In fact, each of our experts is a Howdini, and, like all those Lassies, they really know their tricks. (Although so far there is no ‘How to tell your master that Timmy is trapped in the old abandoned mine’ segment)

Our gurus are people you know and trust because you’ve been getting advice from them for years, at places like Good Morning America, The Today Show, Money, Prevention, and Food and Wine (to name just a few). Many are best-selling authors. Others, like our medical experts, are respected leaders in their fields.

Howdini History

The first Howdini was Joanna Breen, who left a comfortable career at ABC’s 20/20 to create a how to video website after one too many frustrating experiences with handymen who weren’t that handy. Joanna had traveled the world reporting with Barbara Walters and others on injustice, outrage, and tragedy, but now it was time to turn her talents to dealing with crises closer to home, like what do you do if you drop your diamond ring down the drain. Joanna is the quintessential can-do girl, so she didn’t find the prospect of launching a gigantic website the least bit daunting. (Ok, that last part isn’t entirely true.)

Joanna convinced an old ABC News buddy, Shelley Lewis, to join her. Shelley had supervised roughly 9.7 million helpful how to segments during a long career executive producing television shows like Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning. A self-described “info-pig” who loves all kinds of information programming, she is never happier than when she’s learning an amazing new tip that she can annoy share with everyone she knows. Needless to say, Howdini was a dream gig for her. A career woman, a wife, a mother, and author of two books, Shelley considers herself equally challenged by all the facets of her life.

Joanna and Shelley were introduced to marketing executive Alison Provost by a mutual friend who knew that Alison had what they needed - entrepreneurial experience, patience, and a checkbook that still had checks in it. Joanna and Shelley could see right away that Alison should join Howdini. They figured that they would take care of the programming, and Alison would bring trustworthy sponsors to help pay the bills. It took Alison significantly longer to be convinced, maybe because she was crazy busy running a marketing firm called PowerPact, which she continues to oversee while serving as the biggest of big cheeses at Howdini. But whether it’s playing Suduko or launching a new business in a field she knows little about, Alison loves the challenge of a good puzzle, It wasn’t long before she began dropping obscure internet terms like “user-interface” and “googlebot” into casual conversation.

What’s Next for Howdini?

Our goals are modest. Complete and total domination of the internet, crushing Google, Microsoft, and any other punks who get in our way. (Hey, it’s a just a goal.) But until then, we will content ourselves making the best, most professional, most credible how to videos you can find anywhere. We want to help you solve your career issues, your parenting problems, your money troubles. We want you to be more glamorous, healthier, and less stressed out. We want you to check Howdini every day for fun, interesting, useful advice from experts you know and trust.

We want to make Howdini the community you love to be part of every day, To do that, we need to hear from you. Please share your suggestions, rate and comment on the Howdini videos, and the blog, (The Howdini blog). Tell us what you’d like us to create for you.

And then, when we’ve achieved that, it’s back to working on complete and total domination of the internet.

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