Emotions and cancer
A cancer diagnosis is often a life-changing event. Here we talk about the range of reactions that people may have, suggest ways to adjust to the diagnosis and cope during and after treatment, and provide information about support services.
Most people will experience a range of strong emotions after a cancer diagnosis. This may be when they first find out that it’s cancer, and also at various times during and after treatment.
What can you expect to feel? We explore emotions such as disbelief, fear, anxiety, anger and sadness, the connection between physical side effects and emotions, and the role of hope.
Putting together your own “toolbox” of strategies can help you feel more in control. Read about strategies such as gathering information, seeking support, using complementary therapies, managing your thoughts and improving sleep.
It can be difficult to tell people you have cancer, and people may react in unexpected ways. We have tips for starting the conversation, talking to children and managing misunderstandings.
You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back. It can take time to adjust to life after cancer and come to terms with your experience.
When you are dealing with cancer, your support network can make an enormous difference. Learn how family and friends can ease your load, who else can help, and when to seek support from health professionals.
Questions for your doctors
- Where can I get help for how I am feeling?
- How do I know if what I am feeling is a typical reaction? When should I think about getting some professional support?
- What are common emotional challenges with this type of cancer?
- Will a multidisciplinary team (MDT) be involved in my care? Does the MDT include a psychologist and/or social worker?
- How can I see a social worker at my treatment hospital?
- How can I find a professional counsellor or psychologist?
- Should I see a psychiatrist?
- Could I join any clinical trials or research studies about managing the emotional impact of cancer?
- How can I connect with other people affected by cancer?
- Which complementary therapies might help me?
- Who can I talk to about my finances, legal matters and other practical concerns?
- Where can I get more information about the cancer, tests and treatment?
- Who can support my family or carers?
- After treatment, how do I manage fear of the cancer coming back?
- Who can I talk to if I feel worried or depressed after treatment?
Questions for your psychologist, counsellor or other mental health professional
- What are your qualifications and training?
- How much experience do you have supporting people affected by cancer?
- What type of therapy do you recommend for me?
- How long will the therapy last?
- What will the sessions cost? Can the cost be reduced if I can’t afford it?
- Who can I call after hours if I need immediate emotional support?
- Should I consider medicines to support my emotional health?
- Are there any apps, podcasts or online programs that might be helpful?