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What is it?
You may experience many emotions when you are newly
diagnosed with cancer and starting treatment. Your
emotional care is just as important as your physical care.
Anxiety and depression are common in people affected
by cancer. For many people, these feelings will reduce
over time.
What causes it?
There are multiple stressors and challenges people face
when diagnosed with cancer. These range from physical
effects of cancer and its treatment, worry about the
treatment, its effects and effectiveness, social isolation,
relationships and responsibilities and work and financial
What are the signs and symptoms?
Everyone with cancer copes in their own way and there
is no right or wrong way to feel when you are faced with
cancer. A diagnosis of cancer and starting treatment may
cause you to feel a range of emotions which may include:
• fear
• guilt
• anger
• loneliness
• disbelief
• loss of control
• sadness
• distress
How do we prevent and/or manage it?
You might find your usual ways of coping are not enough
to handle the different challenges caused by cancer.
There is no single best or right way of coping, but having
a few different ways may help you feel a greater sense of
control and confidence.
Some things that have been found to be helpful include:
• finding out more information
• discussing your diagnosis, prognosis or treatment with
your health care team
• talking about your feelings
• looking after yourself – do things that enhance your
wellbeing and reduce stress
Each time you visit for treatment, your health care team will
ask you how you are feeling. It is important to communicate
your concerns about symptoms, emotions or coping. It
is likely that your health care team may be able to help.
Removing a medical cause of concern (such as nausea or
pain) may improve your ability to cope. You may also be
referred to other health professionals who can help with
psychosocial or practical concerns:
• counsellor
• social worker
• psychologist
• psychiatrist
Peer support groups give you the chance to meet and talk
with people who have been through or are going through
similar experiences and may be helpful.
Spiritual care and chaplaincy services may assist if you
experience spiritual concerns.
For support and information on cancer and cancerrelated issues, call Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20. It is a
confidential service.
Key resources you may wish to access include:
Cancer how are you travelling? Understanding the emotional
and social impact of cancer. Cancer Australia Website:
Emotions and Cancer. A guide for people with cancer, their
families and friends. Cancer Council Australia Website:
Every patient is different, please discuss your own
personal situation with your treating doctor.