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Emotional Effects of Cancer and How to Manage Them

Cancer is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the U.S. The physical effects, combined with the mental stress, can leave indentations on the patient’s psychological health. These can potentially lead to severe cognitive decline and reduced quality of life. Thus, the individual needs support and professional care to overcome the plethora of mental and physical problems that cancer produces in their own bodies. This National Cancer Prevention Month, let’s take a look at the emotional impact of cancer upon its victims, and how to manage them.

National Cancer Prevention Month: Effects of Cancer

It’s important to learn about cancer in order to better understand and prevent it. Patients already suffering from cancer will be able to cope better if the red flags are identified early on and proper measures are taken.

Worried woman experiencing hair fall and hair loss while celebrating national cancer prevention month.
Most People Suffering From Cancer Lose Their Hair At One Point Or Another (Image Source: Shutterstock)

This includes looking at how cancer may affect the patient’s psychological well-being. An illness in any part of the body weakens the brain too, so doctors must keep an eye on the patient’s mental health as well. 

Cancer patients often lose a serious amount of weight in a short time. This weight loss may trigger insecurities related to body image. Most people suffering from cancer lose their hair at one point or another. They may have swollen limbs, which further makes it difficult for them to remain self-confident. They might become overly-conscious of their body and appearance.

Furthermore, repeated nausea and vomiting leads to physical weakness. It becomes harder for the patients to move. If you are someone who loves going out and walking around, just imagine how it would feel to not be able to get out of bed and go for a jog.

This drastic change in a person’s life is bound to make anyone feel confused, uncertain, and scared. But the effects of cancer do not end here. Inability to concentrate or think, memory lapses, and feelings of isolation become an everyday norm.

Cancer can drain the life out of someone, hence, they need intense care and support to feel okay again. The long-term side effects of chemotherapy take time to go away. Still, they too can leave emotional and physical traces behind that must be managed through self-care and professional help.

Understanding the Psychological Impact of Cancer

During National Cancer Prevention Month, try to understand how someone with cancer feels. An individual suffering from cancer may feel frustrated, helpless, and scared. They may think of themselves as a burden on their loved ones. The emotional and physical impacts of cancer are not limited to the individual suffering from it—family, friends, and relatives are also impacted.

Woman with cancer in pink headscarf smiling sitting on couch at home.
Part Of Going Through Chemotherapy Treatment Is Feeling Immense Guilt And Fear (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Thus, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to help the individual keep their feelings in check. The emotional impact of cancer makes many patients feel overwhelmed. After all, cancer patients have so many thoughts, ranging from denial, to anger, to worry. 

Oftentimes, cancer patients have a hard time accepting reality. It is not until their whole routine changes and the symptoms get more visible and intense, that they accept the truth. But this may vary from individual to individual. While some find it more difficult to absorb the gravity of the situation, others plunge into preparation for the storm ahead.

Part of going through chemotherapy treatment is feeling immense guilt and fear. The guilt might come from causing a potential financial crisis for their family and the possibility that the expensive treatment might not even work. Fear of death is common too. However, it may reach abnormal levels if left unchecked, which will only make things worse.

Other Effects

Other psychological effects of cancer include excessive nervousness and anxiety. The individual may feel worried or down all the time. Depression is often found in patients, especially if they’re confined to a single room, unable to move. Limited family interaction also adds weight to their anxiety and makes them feel alone.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from cancer, make sure you get help from a counselor to avoid the onset of severe mental illnesses. Talking with loved ones or survivors can also help cancer patients and survivors fight better and improve their emotional health.

Here is a short two-minute YouTube video with a few self-care tips you can implement in your lifestyle to help with your fight with cancer.

Self-Care Tips For Those Fighting Cancer – LivingHealthyChicago

Mild Cognitive Impairment: What Does it Look Like?

If you have ever attended breast cancer awareness seminars, you might have come across terms like “chemo brain” or “chemo fog.” These terms are used to describe the cognitive effects of cancer treatment through chemotherapy, which are found mainly in breast cancer patients.

Young woman in bed suffering from cancer.
Mild Cognitive Impairments Can Hinder The Person From Recovering Completely, Drastically Reducing Their Quality Of Life (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Cancer-related cognitive impairment refers to the side-effects felt by several patients who have gone through or are going through chemotherapy. Weaker language skills, inability to comprehend and concentrate at times, memory losses that come and go, and general confusion are some of the most common elements of “chemo brain.”

These mild cognitive impairments can hinder the person from recovering completely, drastically reducing their quality of life. The saddest part is that they often go unnoticed by doctors, family members, and friends. Nonetheless, cancer survivors have to battle with these issues during chemotherapy and after being cancer-free. So they need support and care in more than just fixing their physical health.

Lingering Effects

Although these effects of cancer are subtle, they don’t go away that easily. The person may have trouble learning new things, staying organized, and concentrating on the smallest tasks. There is no shortcut or straight path to solving these problems. 

In the past, it was believed that these cognitive problems were not the result of chemotherapy treatment. Doctors refused to accept that notion and blamed it on other matters. However, over time, research has shown that these mild cognitive impairments are indeed the result of chemotherapy.

It makes sense because chemotherapy has similar well-known side-effects such as anemia, nutritional deficiencies, insomnia, and fatigue. All of them are related to memory in one way or another.

If other psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety are controlled, the cognitive decline may not be as severe. One of the benefits of yoga is that it helps with healing such cognitive problems. So yoga is something all cancer survivors should try on their pathway to recovery.

National Cancer Prevention Month: Awareness and Support

Cancer of any kind takes a massive toll on your health, both mentally and physically. The emotional impacts of cancer can increase the risk of incomplete recovery, which is why they must be controlled and attended to regularly. These psychological impacts include self-consciousness, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and excessive guilt. Support from family and friends, plus help from a professional, are both crucial to ensure proper recovery of the individual.

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