Coping with cancer

In addition to coping with the worry and stress brought about by their diagnosis, patients with cancer and their families must cope with the stresses induced by physically demanding (and also often life-threatening) treatments for the illness and the health impairment and disability, fatigue, and pain that can result, even when there are no longer any signs of the disease. These effects contribute to emotional distress and mental health problems among cancer patients, and together can lead to substantial social problems, such as the inability to work and reduced income. These effects are magnified in the presence of any psychological and social stressors that predate the onset of cancer, such weak or absent social supports. Indeed, physical, psychological, and social stressors are often intertwined, both resulting from and contributing to each other.

What are the symptoms?

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Withdrawal/social isolation from people and social activities
  • Change in appetite, either loss of appetite or over eating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling tired and having no energy
  • Increase in the use of alcohol or drugs to manage symptoms 
  • Reduced libido

What are the therapies that can help? 

Therapy has been shown to help patients learn to cope with psychological stress. Such support can reduce levels of depression, anxiety, and improve health-related quality of life (e.g. physical and emotional functioning, less insomnia).

Related issues

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