I have had several patients who are cancer survivors that have gone through treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I have had several requests on my website and at the office to comment on the association between chemotherapy and moods – the actual neurochemical imbalances causing mood disturbances. Many of my patients have reported incredible life-changing results with proper treatment.
Remember from earlier blogs that the three key factors that contribute to neurochemical imbalances are genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and stressors. Often associated with cancer treatments (especially for women but sometimes men) are hormonal changes brought on by chemotherapy. These treatments may bring on an earlier than usual menopause, throw off menstrual cycles, etc. Also, some women are not allowed to start certain hormonal treatments that they otherwise would have available during perimenopausal and menopausal years due to interaction with chemotherapies or concerns that certain hormones can increase cancer risks.
The diagnosis of cancer and subsequent treatments lead to increased emotional and physical stress. This diagnosis can cause a lot of fear, worry and emotional turmoil. Treatments can be harsh on the system, killing not only cancer cells but also having negative effects on other normal areas of the body. There can be side effects such as nausea, pain, decreased appetite and hair loss. Hair loss can cause a lot of emotion, contributing to lack of confidence and low selfesteem.
When it comes to chemotherapy and moods, depression and anxiety disorders are common during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. In a sense, it can cause a type of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is common after any serious medical problem, such as following heart attacks and strokes. Other common examples are during and after chemotherapy for treatment for Hepatitis C and treatment of severe acne with Accutane.
The chemical imbalances in the nervous system that result, can cause a lot of negative mood and physical symptoms. In addition to depression and anxiety, one can experience recurring pain of different areas of the body, fatigue, insomnia, lack of motivation, poor focus, etc. The type of medications I prescribe, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizers are very helpful, and the majority of patients respond very favorably to treatment. Many patients have truly remarkable results.
Once mood is stabilized there is a much higher likelihood of getting better sooner, and I strongly believe that it can decrease chance of relapse and remission. Balancing the nervous system properly when needed leads to hope, and hope is exactly what these patients need at this time of life.
In two weeks I will blog on ADD/ ADHD, part one, of a two part series. I look forward to seeing and hearing from you.