Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis: The Importance of Mental Health Care

Cancer is a whole-body disease. It affects people physically, mentally, and emotionally. Undergoing testing, diagnosis, and treatment can cause intense feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, stress, and fear. Studies show that at least 30 to 35 percent of cancer patients experience some type of mental health condition. At the same time, caregivers and loved ones may also experience many of these same feelings.

Navigating Cancer During a Global Pandemic

We’re also entering a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic — a time marked by loss, uncertainty, anxiety, and fatigue. Navigating cancer during a pandemic presents even more health concerns. People with cancer are immunocompromised, which means they must be even more diligent with COVID-19 safety precautions.

This also affects family members or caregivers who are doing their best to keep COVID-19 out of their home. Every outing or interaction can cause fear and worry. Treatment may further limit what a person can do outside of the hospital in the midst of a pandemic. Daily worries all are amplified by the reality of cancer.

When to Seek Help

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease will affect your mental health. It is totally normal and appropriate for people with cancer to experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and fear. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept long bouts of mental health struggles. While patients may experience ups and downs in their mood, if these feelings last for longer than a few days, it’s time to seek help.

The Importance of Mental Health Treatment

At times, the challenges of navigating a cancer diagnosis (especially during a global pandemic) may seem insurmountable. But it is critical to keep mental health in focus when coping with cancer. In fact, a healthy mental state may positively impact treatment outcomes. For example, studies show that people with cancer who got treatment for mental health conditions had longer survival times. In addition, those who get mental health treatment are more likely to follow through with medical care and often have a better quality of life.

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