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5 Tips for Recognizing Depression

Depression and Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Care
11:15 am, Today
Room 292

It’s not hard to understand why head and neck cancer patients suffer from depression. Besides the diagnosis itself, this particular disease can lead to other significant physical deteriorations. Patients may not be able to speak, swallow, or communicate, and their appearance may be obviously altered. This can lead to social isolation and withdrawal and can also be linked to spiritual, fiscal, professional, and social hardships.

However, the professionals treating them often zero in on only the physical difficulties.

“The traditional mindset in care of a patient has emphasized ‘cure of cancer,’ which may overshadow other aspects of the overall care of the person,” said Dr. Panwar. “Clinicians and patients are often faced with complex decision-making demands related to cancer therapy and may choose to defer items that are important but less obvious for a later time.”

Patients don’t always have access to mental health professionals, and oncologists aren’t always well-versed in recognizing and managing depression.

In an effort to remedy this, Dr. Panwar has five suggestions for  those attending this Panel Presentation:

  • Recognize that your responsibility is to the entire person—not just the cancer. This includes screening, monitoring, and providing help for emotional well-being for the patient throughout his or her survivorship.
  • Learn how to identify depression.
  • Screen patients early and often. You need to look for symptoms that may suggest the onset of depression.
  • Educate patients and their caregivers. Tell them about the symptoms of depression and options for prevention and management throughout their survivorship care.
  • Take advantage of resources. Both AAO-HNSF and the American Head and Neck Society have materials available to enhance awareness and build skills related to head and neck cancer survivors.

If you believe a patient may be struggling with depression, remember it takes a village.

“Management of depression requires collaborative multidisciplinary care,” said
Dr. Panwar. “A provider trained to care for mental health issues should be involved in caring for patients who demonstrate symptoms of depression.”