Empowering an audience of more than 100 cancer patients, caregivers and supporters, Rahn Kennedy Bailey, MD, FAPA, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., addressed the critical importance of emotional and mental well-being when coping with a diagnosis of cancer in his special presentation, Depression in Cancer Patients.
Bailey, former president of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association and current president of the National Medical Association, representing more than 30,000 African-American physicians, encouraged attendees to be advocates of their health and seek treatment and support for mood disorders common to those affected by cancer.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the Beaumont native. A 1982 graduate of Hebert High School, Dr. Bailey fondly recalled his Southeast Texas upbringing and cited the support he received from family, friends and the community as essential to his success. He warmly greeted those in attendance then turned to his very serious subject.
It is estimated that clinical depression, a treatable illness, occurs in one in four people with cancer, resulting in impaired functioning and a diminished ability to follow treatment plans. Proper medical attention, combined with a therapeutic network of support, can greatly reduce the suffering of patients and ultimately improve their quality of life.
“Not only does having a mood disorder make periods of illness more difficult,” Bailey said, “But it is also more likely to create an earlier bad outcome — independent of what cancer you may have. Optimal mental health can actually improve the quality and length of your life, even with medical concerns, such as cancer.”
The informative presentation and complimentary dinner were hosted by the “Gift of Life’s” Prostate Cancer Support Group, Men Against Cancer (MAC), and made available to all cancer patients, survivors, loved ones and caregivers.
“This program was excellent,” said attendee Vernon Durden. “I learned that the endocrine system will signal depression, sometimes even before cancer is detected. The body is an amazing machine, and if we pay attention, it will tell us what’s wrong.”
Many of the guests were heartened by Bailey’s assurance that positive healthcare outcomes favor those who proactively obtain help for clinical depression and anxiety.
“Dr. Bailey did a great job of discussing how depression and cancer are intertwined,” Mike Lagaza said. “You have to open up about these things, and talking about it is the first step forward. As Dr. Bailey stated, when you combine medication and talk therapy, there is an 84 percent improvement – which is huge!”
The “Gift of Life,” with its medical partners, hosts monthly breast and prostate support group meetings for those recently diagnosed with cancer, survivors and their families. These gatherings provide a vehicle of expression and an educational platform with shared information, as well as camaraderie and compassionate support.
“I commend and admire the work of the ‘Gift of Life,’” Bailey concluded. “This kind of community involvement is essential to bringing people together and finding the best in one another. The ‘Gift of Life’s’ programs are essential for maintaining a quality societal orientation.”
In addition to educational outreach and healthcare seminars, the “Gift of Life,” in partnership with Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas and other local healthcare providers, offers free prostate cancer screenings and vital healthcare information to hundreds of medically underserved Southeast Texas men during the month of June. In Port Arthur on June 8, 86 men were screened; an additional screening was held in Beaumont on Saturday, June 15, and one is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, in Orange.
Since 2000, the “Gift of Life” has made available nearly 7,000 free prostate cancer screenings and helped extend the lives of more than 60 men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and whose diagnostic and cancer treatment costs were entirely underwritten by the “Gift of Life.”
During the past 24 months, seven men have been diagnosed with prostate cancer through “Gift of Life” screenings and navigated by a program case manager through cancer treatment and provided support services and other immediate resources, when needed.
Call the “Gift of Life” to find out if you qualify for a screening and to make an appointment: (409) 833-3663 or toll-free at (877) 720 GIFT (4438).