A cancer diagnosis can have a substantial impact on mental health and wellbeing. Depression and anxiety may hinder cancer treatment and recovery, as well as the quality of life and survival. One in three people with cancer will experience a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorders before, during or after treatment.

“A cancer diagnosis, its associated symptoms and treatment can have a significant emotional impact on people and their families, with fear, isolation, loss of self-esteem and loss of independence.”

Emotional effects of cancer 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic stress 
  • Worry and stress about finances or medical bills
  • Difficulty enjoying hobbies and activities
  • Uncertainty, negativity, or fear, especially about what the future holds
  • Fatigue or lower energy
  • Body image issues
  • Denial, anger, or grief

Survivors of cancer often struggle with anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression. Research shows adults who have survived cancer are twice as likely to have mental health issues as adults who have never had cancer. Anxiety in particular affects many survivors of cancer. It’s also common for cancer survivors to have mental health concerns after successful treatment. Once there are no more signs of cancer in the body people may be overwhelmed by the emotions they held back during treatment. So, it’s important to work with a professional after treatment, even if mental health symptoms don’t come up right away.

Cancer treatments are often successful and many people who have cancer live for years past diagnosis. But people who struggle with mental health concerns, during treatment or afterwards, may have a lower quality of life. Because the emotional effects of cancer are far-reaching and can become serious, it’s important to seek help before they become worse. People may feel relieved and hopeful after cancer treatment. But feelings of anxiety and stress are also normal. It’s often difficult to return to life as it was before the diagnosis. Loved ones may not understand what has changed, and feelings of isolation are also common in cancer survivors.

Why would I need a Mental Health Professional?

Many people who experience problems in their lives seek a mental health professional for some kind of therapy or counselling. They may look for the treatment of a specific symptom such as panic attacks, or they may want to learn a new way to manage problems in a relationship or at work. Cancer survivors may look for a mental health provider for these same reasons, as well as for issues related to their cancer.

What can I expect if I see a Mental Health Professional?

There are several kinds of mental health providers and many kinds of treatments. Your experience will depend on the provider you see and the problem for which you want help. You can expect the provider to listen to your experiences and ask questions about your personal history. You will need to talk about your difficulties and your goals for treatment. Most therapists see patients once a week for 45–50 minutes. Some types of therapy will last only a few sessions, while other therapy may continue for months or longer.

With 40% of cancer patients experiencing clinically significant mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, the need for care is evident.

Even survivors of cancer who have no mental health symptoms are urged to reach out to a counsellor who specializes in post-cancer care. Research shows that fewer than a third of cancer survivors talk about mental health issues with their doctors, even though they are at high risk for anxiety and depression. Talking to a counsellor early on can help keep issues from getting serious.

“Reaching out to a cancer support group, especially one led by a trained counsellor, is one way to address the emotional effects of cancer. Strong support is a key factor in good emotional health and it can help to talk to other people who have experienced something similar.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed are of the writer only.

Samara Mahindra

Founder & CEO of CARER
CARER works with cancer patients, caregivers, survivors, and specialists to prevent and help cancer patients. To know more about Carer (Cancer Prevention & Therapy Experts), please visit here.

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