Lung Cancer and Mental Health

Cancer is a disease that occurs when certain cells in the body grow out of control and spread to other parts of the body, causing damage. Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs but can spread to other areas of the body as well.

Depression is a mental health condition that involves feelings of sadness or decreased interest in activities. About 25% of people with cancer suffer from depression.

This article will discuss lung cancer and depression, the signs of depression, treatment options, and tips for preventing depression symptoms.

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Lung cancer and depression

Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can be difficult and can lead to sad or even hopeless thoughts and feelings. Any serious physical health condition can impact mental health, but there may be more to lung cancer.

Lung Cancer and Mental Health Statistics

People with lung cancer suffer from depression at a rate of 21% –44% compared to a rate of 7% –23% among people with other types of cancer.

There is a stigma, or negative association, with lung cancer that stems from the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

A stigma can lead to:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself or others low self-esteem
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or guilt
  • Bullying or negative interactions with others

Signs of depression

The signs of depression vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. To be diagnosed with depression, a person must experience a decreased mood or less interest or enjoyment in daily activities for at least two weeks, along with some of the following symptoms.

  • Continued feelings of sadness, anxiety, or numbness (as if the feeling is lost)
  • Despair, guilt, low self-esteem or excessive pessimism
  • Irritable mood, excessive frustration or anger
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities that were once appreciated
  • Tiredness, less energy or slowing of movement, speech or response
  • Restlessness or desire to move
  • Memory, concentration or decision-making challenges
  • Changes in sleep or eating habits, increase or decrease
  • Unexplained aches, pains or discomfort
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts or thoughts of death

Get help

Depression is treatable and there are many things people can do to cope with it. It is important to get help when depression is identified or suspected.

Resources are available, including:

  • Primary Care Providers
  • Mental health workers (therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists)
  • National Life Line for Suicide Prevention (800-273-8255)
  • Support groups

Medical professionals are able to control depression with questionnaires and by asking questions. These screenings are often covered by insurance and there may be no patient charge.


The most common treatment options for depression are medications and speech therapy. Sometimes drugs and speech therapy are used together. Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a form of therapy that uses electrical currents to stimulate or regulate the brain that can be used in some cases when medications and speech therapy are not effective.

Medicines for depression include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Psychotherapy methods for depression include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviors to change outcomes.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships, communication skills and conflict resolution.
  • Problem solving therapy uses specific tools and strategies to learn how to manage stress and overcome challenges.
  • Psychodynamic therapy consider childhood experiences and how past experiences can be used to change outcomes.
  • Relational or family therapy involves conversation therapy with close or family partners to help cope together.

Lifestyle changes and coping strategies can also be helpful for depression. These options include:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Gratitude practices
  • Learn about depression
  • Relieve stress
  • Volunteering
  • Spend time with friends and family


It is important that people who are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health problems, such as people with long-term physical health conditions such as cancer, receive preventative support, therapy that can help prevent symptoms of depression before they start.

Speech therapy or counseling can be used as preventative support. For example, a person diagnosed with lung cancer but with no signs of depression may speak to a mental health professional about the challenges of a cancer diagnosis and treatment in hopes of avoiding some of the challenges. for mental health that may emerge.

Preventive therapy can help a sick person to:

  • Process thoughts, feelings and emotions
  • Learn coping strategies
  • Communicate better with family, friends and their healthcare team
  • Follow the treatment plans
  • Identify their needs and how to meet them


There are connections between lung cancer and depression. People with lung cancer are more likely to suffer from depression, even more than people with other types of cancer.

Depression is treatable, and multiple options are available, including speech therapy, medications, or both. It is important to seek depression help to improve both depression symptoms and lung cancer outcomes.

A word from Verywell

Lung cancer diagnosis and treatment can be difficult, and coping with depression at the same time can be even more difficult. If you or someone you know are showing signs of depression, such as feelings of sadness or decreased interest in activities, help is available. Seek the support of a healthcare professional such as a primary care physician or mental health provider.

Frequent questions

  • Does cancer increase your chances of depression?

    Stressful life events, including physical illnesses such as cancer, increase the risk of depression. People with lung cancer and other cancers experience depression at higher rates. However, depression is treatable and not all cancer patients will be diagnosed with depression.

  • How Can You Prevent Depression?

    Depression can be prevented with preventative speech therapy provided by a mental health professional after being diagnosed with cancer. Lifestyle changes such as nutrition, exercise, and spending time with friends and family can also help.

  • What is the National Depression Helpline?

    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a phone number to ask for emotional support, especially if there are thoughts of self-harm, harm to others, or suicide. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number to call is 800-273-8255.

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