November 28, 2022
Cancer is a life-changing event. From receiving the news of a cancer diagnosis to understanding the treatment plan, those diagnosed with cancer go through many kinds of emotions along with physical discomfort resulting from treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc. Pain and fatigue, appetite changes, memory changes all can have an overwhelming impact on the mental strength of the individual – in addition to the physical challenges.
Individuals diagnosed with cancer experience elevated stress levels and often feel overwhelmed. Since cancer treatments may create debilitating side effects and make it hard to go about one’s regular lives, it is not uncommon for them to think about their own condition and about their loved ones and feel depressed.
However, depression is the opposite of what their mind and body need during the time. In order to overcome the hurdles of cancer treatment, it is vital to have optimism and determination to face the disease.
According to research, up to 25% of cancer-affected individuals suffer from a prevalent mental health issue. One of the primary issues with mental health challenges associated with cancer is the inability of the affected individuals to be aware of it. For instance, certain mental health symptoms: fatigue, lack of sleep, and decreased appetite overlap with symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.
Take note of the following mental health symptoms:
During cancer treatment, individuals, their families, and their caregivers need to look out for indicators of mental health disorders – such as distress, sadness, and anxiety.
Distress may be defined as an unpleasant feeling, mood, or behavior. Distress can have an impact on how one thinks, feels, and acts, making it difficult to cope with cancer symptoms, treatment, and side effects. According to research, distress might influence how individuals make health decisions and act. They may find it difficult to concentrate on treatment decisions, follow-up appointments, or even taking drugs that are necessary for their treatment. They may express their distress in the following ways:
Sadness, fear, or rage
Helplessness, hopelessness, or a sense of being out of control
Feeling unsure about life's purpose or meaning
Fear of being separated from friends and family
Concerned about one’s role at home or in society
Anxiety is a typical issue for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. They may experience fear and anxiety during treatment and recovery. Finding lumps or other symptoms of cancer and learning about a cancer diagnosis or relapse can create anxiety and fear. Treatment, doctor visits, and tests may also create anxiety. If these signs and symptoms occur nearly every day, and interfere with daily activities, they could be more serious in nature with underlying causes. Here are common symptoms of anxiety:
Difficulty in focusing on a task
Feeling of shakiness or trembling
Irritability or rage-filled outbursts
Depression is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Individuals may have trouble adapting to the changes in life goals, self-esteem and body image, disruption of social roles, financial concerns, and end-of-life issues leading to depression. Anxiety or distress symptoms can sometimes coexist with depression. Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate the need for professional care with depression:
Feeling jittery or shaky
Having a guilty conscience
Having difficulty concentrating or feeling disorganized
Finding it difficult to participate in activities you used to enjoy
Suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide
Managing mental health begins with having healthy communication and relationships with the one diagnosed with cancer. Asking them how they've been feeling emotionally or how they've been managing the diagnosis and treatment may be the right approach. Letting them know that someone is there to help them – can help them open up about any problems they are having.
Here are a few tips that can help in managing mental health:
While meeting with a clinical social worker or a therapist may seem intimidating, these specialists are qualified to assist on mental health challenges. Allowing oneself to talk to someone other than friends or family ensures a trustworthy professional to help - while allowing family to remain family.
Changing routine duties, habits, and hobbies is not a failure; it is part of the process of adapting to changed circumstances. For example, those diagnosed with cancer may experience fatigue and may not want to participate in normal everyday activities. They may want to spend more time resting or sleeping. It is important to respect their requirements and feelings – enabling them to stay in their comfort zone.
However, caregivers and family members must ensure that their routines and behavior do not cause any challenges. Family members should also encourage them to practice light, low-impact exercises as recommended by their healthcare team.
Individuals diagnosed with cancer often need transportation or need to get something done. It is critical for them to plan ahead of time to make it happen. Ask a friend for help as it will save time and avoid any last-minute scramble. Having another person will also help evaluate the options at hand and lessen the stress, providing a sense of control.
Joining a support group can be beneficial for individuals as they can connect with others who are going through a similar situation. A monthly in-person group, a one-time workshop, or self-care support groups are all right forms of support. Others may need to consider counseling with a mental health therapist.
Online support groups and communities may be of help to cancer-affected individuals with physical inabilities or a challenged immune system. This is truly beneficial for those who may not be able to connect face to face. However, it is critical to maintain in-person connections as it aids in emotional well-being.
Individuals should get sufficient sleep to promote emotional resilience, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive function - all of which are critical for coping with the psychological challenges of cancer. Quality sleep helps regulate mood, decreases anxiety and depression, while also facilitating effective decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Moreover, sufficient sleep supports the body's immune system, which is vital in the fight against cancer and preventing its spread.
There are plenty of fantastic community resources available to assist. Look into your own neighborhood for emotional and social support. The American Cancer Society's website is a fantastic place to search for resources in your area.
Maintaining a positive mindset can provide strength, hope, and resilience during difficult times. It allows individuals to focus on possibilities, maintain a sense of control, and foster a belief in their ability to fight this disease and live a quality life. Embracing positivity can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, promoting overall emotional well-being. Carry on with regular activities and ensure adequate hydration, healthy food intake, and light exercises to support overall health. Moreover, a positive mindset can help individuals find inner strength, build a support network, and face their cancer journey with greater optimism and determination.
The mental fight against cancer can have many ups and downs. But help is there for those who seek it.
One can discuss with the doctor as to what the diagnosis means and what the future might hold. Knowing more about the illness may help one feel more in control. Connecting with individuals who have been diagnosed with a similar disease might also create hope.
For any queries or concerns about mental health during or after cancer diagnosis and treatment, contact the Advanced Cancer Treatment Center, one of the best cancer centers in Florida.