Australia’s rates of cancer survival have greatly increased over time. Treatments are improving constantly, and if the cancer can’t be controlled, symptoms can be managed to make life more comfortable. Even so, it can be hard to feel hopeful just after a cancer diagnosis.
Worrying about the future is natural. It can be confronting to think about your own mortality, even if the outlook for your type of cancer is reassuring. Talk to your doctor about what the diagnosis means for you and what the future may hold. Knowing more about the illness may help ease your fears and give you a sense of control. Connecting with others who have a similar diagnosis can also help you find hope.
If you’ve been told the cancer is advanced, you may find it harder to feel hopeful. In some cases, advanced cancer can be controlled for many years. When time is limited, people often focus on goals such as finishing a special project or spending time with family and friends.
For more on this, see Living with Advanced Cancer.
Does thinking positively help?
A common belief is that people with cancer need to stay positive. Hope is important, but trying to put on a brave face all the time can feel very draining and often doesn’t work well. The reality is that cancer and its treatment can be unpleasant and frightening, and it is okay not to feel great about that. The pressure to be positive can sometimes make it hard for people to discuss their feelings and reach out for support.
Try to be realistic about what is happening. It is often a good idea to talk to someone about your fears and concerns and how you feel you are coping. Sharing your feelings with those around you may also help you get the support you need.
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
A/Prof Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology and Allied Health Lead, Cancer, Central Adelaide Local Health Network and The University of Adelaide, SA; Hannah Chen, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Hazel Everett, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, TAS; Dr Jemma Gilchrist, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Mind My Health and Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead, NSW; Sandra Hodge, Consumer; Dr Michael Murphy, Psychiatrist and Clinician Researcher, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Alesha Thai, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Alan White, Consumer.
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