- Cancer Information
- When you are first diagnosed
- Emotions and cancer
- Getting support
- When do you need professional support?
When do you need professional support?
While everyone with cancer experiences distress at some point, it can be difficult to know if how you are feeling is a typical reaction or something more serious. If you talk to a health professional about your concerns, they are likely to use a standard method to measure how you are feeling. For example, you may be asked to rate your distress over the past week on a scale of 0 to 10 and complete a checklist of problems.
At any stage after a cancer diagnosis, it is natural to have days when you feel sad or worried. Sometimes, however, a person may begin to feel “stuck” in their distress and become very depressed or anxious. If this is the case for you or someone you care about, it is important to seek help.
You may need to seek professional help if you:
- find it difficult to function on a daily basis
- have lost the desire to do things that previously gave you pleasure
- find you are feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- begin to rely on alcohol or drugs
- stop eating regularly
- are sleeping too much or having a lot of trouble sleeping
- are worried you might hurt someone because of your anger
- think about self-harm or taking your own life.
Anxiety and depression are quite common among people who have had cancer, but there is no need to face this experience alone. Talk to your cancer care team or GP, as counselling or medicine – even for a short time – may help. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or get in touch with beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
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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