Feelings of grief and sadness may follow the news that your cancer has returned or progressed, and it is important to be wary of signs of depression. Depression can make your life miserable, amplify your symptoms or even lead to a desire to die.

Possible signs of depression include ongoing despair and feelings of sadness or hopelessness that dramatically affect your ability to get on with things. In this case, you may need a health professional to help you get back on track.

What may help

Listen to those around you

The people who care about you can sometimes see things you cannot. If they are worried about your state of mind and can see you are struggling with everyday life, it may be the cue for you to seek professional advice.

Talk to your Doctor

Depression is often under-diagnosed in people with advanced cancer, so if you feel you are sliding down that slope, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They are able to assess how you are feeling and suggest appropriate medications or counselling. Use the emotional assessment guide to further discuss depression with your doctor.


Q: If I think I am suffering from depression, should I ask my doctor for Prozac?

A: You should certainly talk to your doctor if you think you are depressed. But he or she will need to assess the real root of your symptoms first. A large trial in Australia in recent years raised questions about the benefits of doctor prescribed antidepressants for people with advanced cancer.

Get counselling

Psychotherapy (group or individual counselling) works well on depression in some people with advanced cancer, and can increase self-esteem and satisfaction with life. Your doctor, nurse or social worker may be able to recommend programs or groups in your area.

For more information

  • Call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 to speak to a trained cancer nurse, who may also refer you to a counsellor if you need to speak to one.
  • Go to Beyond Blue, for information on depression and how to deal with it.

Last updated 30 August 2015