Coping With Emotions

Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Cancer Treatment

Depression and anxiety frequently accompany cancer, and treating these issues is part of taking care of your overall health.

Cancer and its treatment can take patients out of their normal routines, potentially leading to depression and anxiety, but there are ways of lowering risk. Addressing symptoms around your mental health during cancer treatment is an important part of treating cancer as a whole.

UVA Cancer Center strives to improve mental health awareness by looking deeper at the impact of cancer on the whole lives of individuals. Some people may hesitate to seek out support for their mental health for fear of a social stigma. However, depression, anxiety, PTSD and other conditions can be treated confidentially. Despite the social stigma, seeking treatment for mental health issues is a responsible and proactive step toward improving your health and your quality of life.

Resources for Supporting Your Mental Health

A conversation with your doctor can provide you with resources to maintain your mental health during cancer treatment. Even a simple discussion about the nonphysical elements of your life that your diagnosis impacts, like finances, childcare and transportation, can yield help in those areas in the form of a clinical social worker. You should also talk to your doctor about the way you’re handling your treatment, including any and all side effects you’re experiencing, to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.

To raise mental health awareness, UVA Cancer Center has chaplains to help you address spiritual concerns, pray with you or help you to deal with stress in other ways that are consistent with your religious beliefs. Additionally, cancer support groups can help connect you with other people who are dealing with similar cancer treatments. Talking to others who know what you’re going through can be a relief and provide much-needed support. Some groups meet up in person, or there is the option of online cancer support groups which allow you to connect from home.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

In addition to finding support from other people, there are a few steps you can take on your own to strengthen your capacity to cope with the challenges of cancer. Start by taking stock of which activities make you feel good. You may have to make some adjustments to accommodate fatigue or other side effects, but be creative and hold onto the activities that bring you joy.

Laughter is a wonderful stress reliever for people with cancer, according to a study in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy. Getting your daily dose of laughter can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your quality of life during treatment. Whether you’re watching a favorite comedian or playing silly games with your family, time spent giggling is good for you. It is also helpful to connect with your community in meaningful ways. If you have a spiritual practice or religion, participating in the rituals and community aspects of your beliefs can be both stress relieving and uplifting.

As you focus on your cancer care, remember that your mind and your spirit are also impacted by cancer. You don’t have to go on this journey by yourself — talk to your doctor about ways your cancer care team can ease your stress and improve your quality of life.

You don't have to beat cancer by yourself. That's why UVA Cancer Center provides emotional and spiritual support for patients through clinical social workers and chaplains.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley