Psychological Health Among Cancer Survivors

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Psychological Health Among Cancer Survivors

As soon as cancer is mentioned, everyone starts running around looking to cure it or get rid of it as soon as possible. What most doctors, loved ones and even the patient themselves, seem to forget, is the mental and psychological well being of the sufferer. This is perhaps the worst mistake that anyone can make.

The need for psychiatric care/emotional health of a cancer patient  is a must. Be it the start, middle or end of the disease, cancer patients need to have  professional help where they are able to voice  whatever is going on inside their head. Focusing only on getting better physically is not enough. Handling your emotions is just as important.

As per the statistics of The National Cancer Institute, 45% of cancer patients go through anxiety issues, 25% have depression and quite a few experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The worst part though is that cancer survivors are more likely to commit suicide, twice the normal rate than normal people.

So what can be done? Here are the answers for you. These ideas will help you whether you are the one who has just come out cancer or battling it, or if someone you love is struggling with the after effects of the destructive disease. Before being able to help cancer survivors, there is a need to understand what they are really going through.

Mental Health and Cancer

Recent studies show that people who have dealt with cancer feel that they are suffering from poor health. This case is true for 10% of the patients as compared to 6% of normal, non-cancer citizens. It mostly happens because cancer survivors are unable to fully come out of the trauma that they had experienced.

Studies show that most cancer survivors constantly have the feeling of “knife hanging over their heads”. They are always scared of a phone call or even routine medical checkups as they fear the recurrence of cancer again. This does not allow them to lead a happy life because the stress continues to persist.

What needs to be understood is that if these mental dilemmas are not controlled, they can become disastrous. Fully fledged mental stress can at times even lead to suicide. Not only do these mental health problems make the survivors life difficult, but also make their loved ones life restricted. The cancer survivor is unable to get over the threat of becoming sick again and makes it difficult to resume a normal routine.

One more thing that cancer survivors go through is survivor’s guilt. No doubt the idea of beating the disease is amazing for them, but during treatment they tend to come across many people who are suffering from some form of cancer and end up losing the battle of their lives. This leads to the question “why was I spared?” They tend to continue being upset deep down about how they came out of the battle alive while many of their friends died.

As per the words of MD David Spiegel, medicine professor at Stanford University in California, “Just as many oncologists now view pain as a symptom to be treated, they should also consider depression a symptom to be treated to improve quality of—and possibly extend—life”.

What can be Done to Help?

Expert believe that cancer survivors need some kind of professional help in order to overcome these phases of depression and anxiety once they are through with the treatment. Not only do they need therapy during the process of treatment, but afterwards as well. Very few people are able to get back to routine life without help, once they have conquered cancer.

There is special need to get all cancer survivors through psych evaluation. Once it is determined what their mental condition is, they should then be treated accordingly. There are quite a few ways to help treat individuals. Here are some options that can be utilized.

Individual Therapy

This works best for most people. A therapist will see you weekly or as per need and let you talk out about everything that is causing you distress. They might give you some medications but most help through therapy and discussion. Your oncologist team can either refer you to someone in the same hospital where you got treated or other such place.

Group or AA Meetings

Just like there is alcoholics anonymous, there is also a group session for cancer survivors. There are other cancer patients there who share their stores and a therapist who suggests ways of dealing with the stress and depression. You can ask your oncologist and they can easily guide you regarding which group is closest to you.

Art Classes

This does not only mean that the person would need to paint or draw. Rather, any form of artistic expression helps in getting over the feelings of stress and depression. What’s more, art is the best way to get rid of anxiety. It is up to you what you think is more effective. It could be drawing, painting, dance, singing, or even writing if that is what you are comfortable with.

Therefore, whether it is you or your loved who is going through survivor’s guilt or fear of cancer recurrence, the sooner you see a psychologist or mental health professional, issues can be resolved and  progress made. Don’t think that depression or anxiety will end on its own and all that needs to be done is continuing to ignore feelings of gloom. Get help. Let your loved ones know and seek help.

Do not let matters get out of hand or come to the point of some drastic step like suicide. Emotional or psychological health, just like physical health, can be improved with therapy as well as medication. Let your medical doctor decide what you need. Stay strong!


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