Anxiety and Cancer | Cancer-Champions | Health Care Consulting

anxiety and cancer

Unfortunately, anxiety and cancer are interconnected. Anxiety is found at every stage of a cancer diagnosis:

  • There is the anxiety of waiting for screening results.  Think of the pit in your stomach when you are called back for additional tests after a mammogram or prostate exam. 
  • Hearing you have a cancer diagnosis brings about feelings of fear and distress. 
  • Once in treatment, each scan or blood test used to measure a treatment’s response is accompanied by the fear and anxiety of the treatment no longer working.
  • Once in remission, there is the worry that the cancer will come back.  

Anxiety and fear affect the quality of life of people with cancer and their families to varying degrees.    Some people easily adjust to a life with cancer while others suffer major depression. 

Risk Factor for Anxiety and Cancer

The following risk factors may help identify those more prone to experience high levels of distress:

  • Trouble doing the usual activities of daily living.
  • Side effects associated with treatment  ( extreme, nausea, pain, fatigue)
  • Unmet social and spiritual needs
  • Depression or other emotional problems before a cancer diagnosis
  • Cancer diagnosed at an advanced stage

Ways to Cope during each stage

Here are ways to cope with the anxiety faced during each stage of cancer:

After hearing you have cancer

Many people may think something is wrong before they get their diagnosis.  They have had unexplained symptoms or been referred for additional testing after a routine screening.   When they hear they have cancer and their fears are realized they likely will not hear anything that is said after that and may suffer from trouble sleeping or depression. They may need additional support from healthcare professionals to cope with their distress. 

After a diagnosis is the best time to reach out for the support of a private patient advocate. The expertise of an advocate eliminates the confusion of the unknown and can have a dramatic effect on the level of anxiety everyone is feeling. 

During treatment 

The side effects of treatment can negatively impact daily activities.

Changing a work schedule to accommodate for side effects is one example of a coping skill needed during this phase.  Another may be mindfulness to help a person with their anxious thoughts. 

Once in Remission 

Although the cancer is in remission and treatment has ended, many people feel anxious about not seeing their oncology team regularly and returning to work and family life.  

Follow-up visits are stressful due to the fear that the cancer has come back. 

Studies have shown that people who are having trouble adjusting to life with and after a cancer diagnosis are helped by treatments that give them emotional and social support, including the following:

Where to find help

Wondering where to find help for anxiety and cancer? Start with…

At Cancer Champions we support our clients from diagnosis through survivorship. Our personal experience and broad network of resources enable us to customize solutions to meet unique needs. 

Additional resources: 

Cancer Care

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship