How Cancer Can Affect Us Emotionally


Jul 20, 2021

Welcome back to UHC’s HouseCall on WDTV. Tonight we are continuing our special series on cancer, as we look at how cancer can affect us emotionally. Joining us is Gretchen Hennigan, nurse navigator at the Cecil B. Highland Jr. and Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at United Hospital Center.

1). When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, how does that news emotionally affect the patient?

The emotional toll that a cancer diagnosis can take on a patient can be just as devastating as the physical damage done by the cancer itself. Each patient reacts to their diagnosis in their own way, based on their own life experiences, their understanding of the situation, and their belief system. However, one common reaction to receiving a cancer diagnosis is to be suddenly faced with questions, some of which we will touch on during these interviews.

2). Does a patient ever come to terms with a cancer diagnosis?

  • The first step is to realize your emotions regarding your diagnosis are unique to you and your cancer journey.
  • Become informed about your cancer. Your cancer navigator will meet with you & review information about your specific cancer.
  • Ask questions. Write down questions to discuss with your oncologist or navigator.
  • Maintain communication with loved ones. Good communication with your support system will give you strength through your cancer journey.
  • Develop coping strategies:
    • Practice relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings honestly with family, friends, a spiritual adviser, or a counselor.
    • Keep a journal to help organize your thoughts.
    • When faced with a difficult decision, list the pros and cons for each choice.
    • Find a source of spiritual support.
    • Set aside time to be alone.
    • Remain involved with work and leisure activities as much as possible.

3). Do cancer patients often feel overwhelmed and is that normal to feel that way?

  • It is completely normal to feel out of control and overwhelmed.
  • Accept your feelings. Be kind to yourself and avoid judging yourself for your emotions. Pay attention to what you are feeling, and spend time with people who are positive and uplifting.
  • Communicate your feelings. Having a support system is an important part of dealing with emotions (family, friends, clergy, and counselor).
  • Recognize the signs of depression. Depression and anxiety is common for cancer patients.
  • Depression symptoms include:
    • Being overwhelmed or losing hope.
    • Having problems with memory or thinking.
    • Getting too much or too little sleep.
    • Feeling extreme fatigue or no energy.
    • Having little appetite or not wanting to eat.
    • Feeling very sad and helpless.
    • Experiencing weight loss or weight gain.
  • Discuss any depression symptoms or concerns with your oncologist or clinical navigator when they appear. You may need medical intervention to treat depression or anxiety symptoms.
  • If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, contact your health care provider immediately or go directly to an Emergency Department for help. Call 911 and ask for help if you cannot reach your provider.
  • Seek a connection with other cancer survivors. Resources for one-to-one support.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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