10 Common Emotional Responses to a Cancer Diagnosis


A cancer diagnosis can throw a person and their loved ones into emotional turmoil. It’s perfectly normal for anyone diagnosed with cancer to go through a whole range of emotions, often several in a day. Coping with cancer can be as difficult emotionally as it is physically, and those feelings may continue through treatment and even years after recovery.

According to the National Cancer Institute, these are some of the common emotions a cancer patient may experience:

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Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can leave many patients feeling very overwhelmed. Worrying about their future and how cancer will affect their loved ones coupled with an information overload from their health care team can often leave people feeling like they’ve totally lost control.

Taking the time to find out more about your type of cancer will help you gain some perspective. Ask your doctor to explain anything you don’t fully understand so you can be proactive about your treatment choices.

Some people may find themselves in denial following a cancer diagnosis, burying their heads in the sand hoping it’ll go away. While most people work through this stage fairly quickly, it’s important to face the reality and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Some loved ones may also suffer from denial following a cancer diagnosis. It’s important that they too face what’s happening so that they can offer support.

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Cancer is an unfair disease that nobody deserves. Understandably, patients and loved ones may feel angry that this is happening. The anger may be directed towards themselves, their family members or a religious figure as they work through the initial shock.

Anger may also come from not being able to control the situation. Find out what you can do to be proactive in your treatment. It may help you regain some control and channel your anger into something more positive.

Fear is a perfectly normal response to a cancer diagnosis. Patients are often afraid of dying, afraid of how the treatment will affect them, and of how their diagnosis will affect their loved ones. In addition, they may also worry about money and if they’ll be able to take care of their family.

Use fear to help you come up with practical solutions. Educate yourself on all aspects of your cancer and the treatment involved so that you’re aware of what’s to come.

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Cancer is stressful. It affects all aspects of life — professional, social, familial, financial — so it’s no wonder that stress and anxiety play a big part in dealing with cancer. Support from friends, family and work colleagues is critical. Patients should accept help when it’s offered and seek financial advice and ways to alleviate stress from experts and counselors. Local and online support groups can offer valuable lifelines.

If you feel that your levels of anxiety or stress are getting in the way of your recovery then speak to your health care team.

Sadness can affect a cancer patient at any time. The treatment is tough and they may feel sad that they’re no longer able to do the things they love because of the side effects. Even when patients are given the all-clear, they may still be sad or depressed about some of the things they missed while they were sick.

Some cancer treatments can add to feelings of sadness or depression. It’s vital that you talk to your doctor if you feel your sadness or depression is affecting you on a daily basis so that it can be treated.

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Many cancer patients feel guilty during treatment and after recovery. They worry that they’re a burden on their families, they’re concerned they’re not able to do as much with their children, and may even feel guilty that colleagues are picking up the slack at work. Some feel guilty because they think they brought cancer upon themselves.  It’s important to kick the guilt and concentrate on treatment and recovery.

Cancer can be a lonely place. Friends and loved ones can be supportive but they often don’t fully understand what patients are going through. Some may not be able to cope emotionally with a loved one’s cancer diagnosis so will avoid them altogether.

Counseling and support groups can be extremely beneficial if you feel isolated — sharing your innermost thoughts with others who have been through the same experience will make you feel less alone. Conversely, you may feel lonely after you’ve beaten cancer when fewer people visit and people expect you to be back to your old self before you’re ready.

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Many people find that once they have worked through their negative feelings towards their cancer, that they begin to feel hope and with good reason. Millions of people survive cancer each year and go on to lead incredible lives. There are many that believe a positive attitude is an important element of recovery and that patients respond better to treatment if they have an optimistic outlook.

Following treatment, many cancer survivors feel gratitude and that their illness has positively changed their outlook on life. Fighting cancer can often inspire people to go out and change their lives for the better, doing things that they’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage to.

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Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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