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A diagnosis of cancer (Read about "Cancer: What It Is") can be devastating for both the patient and his or her family. Family roles may suddenly change. Underlying problems may come to the forefront.
Life can start to feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some of the common emotions, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), include:
There may be financial worries as well as emotional ones. In addition, NCI says mental or emotional problems such as anxiety or depression may develop or worsen in patients and family members who are already affected by these disorders. (Read about "Anxiety" "Depressive Illnesses") All of these things can generate a host of conflicting emotions for everyone involved.
NCI says your body may react to the stress and worry of having cancer with physical changes too, including:
Patients may feel alone and misunderstood by friends and relatives. The American Cancer Society says they may be under huge amounts of stress trying to continue working while going through their cancer treatments. (Read about "Job Stress") Or they may be frustrated because of their inability to continue working and providing for their families. They may feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and physically exhausted at the same time.
ACS says loved ones are affected too. Family members may feel helpless, and even resentful over what's going on. When a child has cancer, parents may fear letting him or her out of sight. An adult cancer patient's young children may not understand all the upheaval around them. Older children may feel guilty because they want to go on with their normal lives. Family members may even feel anger at the patient for getting sick, and then feel angry at themselves for even thinking that way.
Many experts feel it's important for families to discuss their conflicting emotions. Some families may be able to do this themselves. But many may need some kind of outside assistance.
Hospital social workers or therapists can be a great help in this area. They can help patients and their families understand some of the changes they're experiencing. Hospital social workers can also provide referrals to mental health professionals in the community who are trained in this area.
Many county health departments also include psychological services and/or referrals. Community service organizations and local clergy members can offer help in this area too.
In addition, many patients and family members find self-help groups to be a wonderful resource. NCI says support groups have been shown to improve mood, encourage the development of coping skills, improve quality of life and improve immune response. (Read about "The Immune System") These groups can provide a place for patients and their families to interact with others who are dealing with or have dealt with cancer. Many people find that it helps to talk about their emotions with others who can directly relate to their feelings. Self-help groups can also be a source of support for those who don't have a strong network of family or friends.
More Cancer Information:
For a list of individual types of cancer, see Cancer: What It Is
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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