Patients with head and neck cancer, which then may lead to laryngectomy procedures, are more susceptible to develop psychological distress like depression. Being in a bad mood is common and tends to extend beyond the treatment period.
These individuals reactions to their illness and treatment vary widely according to some of their health beliefs, information needs, self-care behavior, personality characteristics, fears of recurrence, quality of life, coping, and available social support.
Individuals diagnosed with cancer that can lead to serious complications experience different feelings and symptoms, which can affect their day-to-day life. Some of these include:
• Fear, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, or that life has no meaning.
• Low self-esteem.
• Thoughts of suicide.
• Mood swings going from elation to despair.
• Changes in energy level and apathy.
• Changes in sexual desire.
• Loneliness or feeling isolated.
• No interest in being with family or friends.
Depression is considered, in certain degrees, a typical response to any serious illness, one of the most challenging issues faced by a cancer patient. However, the social taboo around mental health and admitting depression makes it difficult for these patients to reach out and seek consultation.
Communication is paramount. The ability to express thoughts and feelings is often the first step to deal with depression. Esophageal speech or a variety of electrolarynx devices and speech aid devices can be used. See our article for communication right after surgery.
For laryngectomy patients, being unable to speak or verbally communicate makes it harder to express feelings, leading to isolation. Often, surgical and medical care is not enough to deal with these issues; thus the need to put more emphasis on mental health care.
Growing scientific evidence shows that coping with and overcoming depression is very important, not only for the mental health and for the general well-being of the patient, but also due to its capacities to increase recovery and survival.
Facing their mortality is something that cancer patients are submitted to do after finding out about the diagnosis. This leads patients through some stages that go from denial and isolation to anger and depression, finally arriving at acceptance and hope. During these stages, not only the family and friends support is essential, but professional help may also lead patients to the right path.
Fortunately, a patient can find the necessary strength to fight and overcome depression in many ways. Some of these include:
• Seek help from a doctor, nurse or a member of the healthcare team.
• Talk to a psychologist or social worker.
• Search support from family members, friends, colleagues, support groups with other cancer or laryngectomy patients, etc.
• Determine to become proactive.
• Consider antidepressant medication.
• Avoid substance abuse.
• Minimize stress.
• Return to your daily routine.
• Be an example for others.
• Practice speaking with you electrolarynx