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A cancer diagnosis is a life changing event. While living with cancer can contribute to personal growth and meaning in one’s life, the diagnosis can cause emotional distress.
Although every person’s experience is unique, emotions ranging from anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, or hope may arise at any point during the cancer journey. It’s understandable to react in any or all of these ways to an illness. Attention to your emotional distress is important as it can impact every area of your life.
According to the American Cancer Society, surveys show that as many as four in 10 people with cancer experience significant levels of distress. Up to 25 percent of people diagnosed with cancer report significant symptoms of anxiety or depression. When these symptoms are well controlled, people report a better quality of life and participate more actively in their care.
Here are some suggestions the psychiatrists and social workers of the Lifespan Cancer Institute have found to be helpful for people experiencing a cancer diagnosis.
Attending to and acknowledging one’s emotional distress is important for mental and physical health and well-being. There are some coping strategies, both new and “tried and true,” that can help ease emotional distress. Have you thought of trying any of the following?
Contributing to this article were Susan Garland, LICSW, Elaine McDonald, LICSW, Melissa Conroy, LICSW, Alice Deighan, LCS, and Kathy Higginbotham, LICSW, clinical social workers from the Lifespan Cancer Institute, who have specialized training on the impact of cancer on everyday life, and counsel cancer patients and their families.
Dr. Jody Underwood is psychiatrist-in-chief at Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital and Lifespan Physician Group. She is board certified in internal medicine, psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine, and specializes in adult therapy and medication management, psychopharmacology, psychosomatic psychiatry, transplant psychiatry and psychiatric oncology.