Emotions and cancer

Most people will experience strong emotions after a cancer diagnosis, not only when they first hear that it’s cancer, but also at various times during and after treatment.

Cancer is a serious disease, the treatment may take a long time and can be demanding, and there are many periods of waiting and uncertainty. There is no right way to feel – experiencing a range of emotions is normal. The intense feelings may be constant, or they may come and go. You may find that some pass with time, while others last longer. At times, it may feel like you’re on an emotional roller-coaster.

Everyone is different, and you need to deal with the diagnosis in your own way. As you navigate this challenging time, it may be reassuring to know that your reactions are natural, there are different ways to manage the emotional impact, and support is available.

Learn more about:

Listen to our podcasts on Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis and Managing Cancer Fatigue

Facing challenging times

Many people find that they cope better than expected with some aspects of the cancer experience, but are surprised by how difficult other aspects turn out to be.


When you are diagnosed with cancer, it is often difficult to take in the news immediately – you might hear the words, but not be able to absorb them or believe them. Most people feel overwhelmed at first.

Treatment decisions

The weeks after diagnosis can be very stressful. You may feel like everything is happening too fast − or too slowly. People often feel confused and anxious about treatments and side effects. You may wonder if you will be the same person as before and how your life will change.

During treatment

Cancer treatments can be physically demanding and disrupt all your usual routines. You may also need to deal with practical issues such as travelling to treatment, paying for tests and treatment, getting time off work, and family responsibilities.

Treatment side effects

The physical and emotional impacts of cancer are linked. Side effects of treatment can make it harder to cope emotionally, while emotional distress may make the physical side effects worse. The good news is many side effects can now be well managed if you tell your treatment team.

After treatment

Many people are puzzled to find that their mood doesn’t improve as soon as treatment finishes. This can be a time of adjustment as you reassess priorities and come to terms with any long-term impacts of treatment. It is common to feel concerned about the cancer coming back, especially when you have follow-up tests.

Advanced cancer

It can be devastating to be told that the cancer is advanced at first diagnosis, or that it has returned after the initial treatment. If this is the case for you, you and your carers may find it helpful to see a professional counsellor, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or see Advanced Cancer.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on emotions and cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in January 2019
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Coping with cancer?
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Cancer information

What is cancer?
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