In Australia, the rates of cancer survival have increased significantly over time, but it can be hard to feel hopeful when you have just been diagnosed with cancer.
Worrying about the future is natural. Treatments are improving constantly, and if the cancer can’t be controlled, symptoms can be relieved to make life more comfortable.
It can be very 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 this fear.
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 visiting special places or spending time with family and friends.
Does thinking positively help?
A common belief is that people with cancer need to stay positive. While it can help to be hopeful, this doesn’t mean denying the reality that cancer is serious or frightening. Trying to put on a brave face all the time drains energy, and generally doesn’t work well because the negative thoughts just keep coming back. Pressure to be positive can lead to people being afraid to discuss fears and feelings, which can make problems worse.
Try to be realistic about what is happening, and talk to someone about your fears and concerns and how you feel you are coping. Explaining how you feel to those around you may also help you get the support you need.
– Cath Adams, clinical psychologist and psycho-oncologist
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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