Depression at a glance

Depression—a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest—is common among people with cancer. Depression is linked to some body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more factors related to cancer, and even to cancer outcomes. Identifying and managing depression may be important in your cancer treatment plan.

Symptoms include sadness, loss of motivation or interest in activities,  trouble focusing or making decisions, and many more. Triggers for depression include feelings of grief, despair, anxiety, or pain. Many people have a diagnosis of both depression and anxiety.

Complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture approaches can help you manage depression. Mind-body therapiesapproaches that enhance your mind’s capacity to positively affect your body’s function and symptoms. Some interventions focus on calming your mind, improving focus, enhancing decision-making capacity, managing stress, or resolving conflict. Other interventions have a goal of relaxing both your mind and your body., some supplements and natural products, and therapies that manipulate your body or bioenergy fields have been helpful for some people. Depression may also be a symptom of stress. If stress is contributing to your depression, managing your stress will be important in reducing it.

Seek professional help if needed. Diagnoses such as depression can require therapy from trained practitioners for management. We encourage you to explore the options available to you through your cancer team and others. Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.

Top practices and therapies for managing depression

The effects of these practices and therapies on depression are described on What approaches can help you manage depression? ›

Therapies and practices we have reviewed

Further therapies

Therapies recommended in clinical practice guidelines but that we haven’t yet reviewed; see
guidelines ›


Behavioral approaches





Light therapy

Massage therapy


Music and arts therapies

Omega-3 fatty acids


S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)

Sleep deprivation

St. John’s wort

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)

Psychosocial therapies:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral stress management (CBSM)
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
  • Psychoeducation
  • Supportive/expressive therapy


Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Last update: April 16, 2024

Last full literature review: November 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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