Cancer and Mental Health

Any serious physical illness can impact mental health to a great degree. For patients, their loved ones, caregivers etc., this can be a devastating experience. Receiving a potentially fatal diagnosis, going through treatment protocols and learning to live with a condition such as cancer will not only affect your physical body but also your mental health.


It is common for cancer patients to undergo a series of thought processes such as feelings of shock, disbelief, avoidance, anger, guilt and blame, feeling alone, loss of control and independence, loss of confidence, sadness and depression, withdrawal, isolation, fear and so on. All these thoughts directly or indirectly cause them significant personal distress in addition to the physical pain they undergo. How one cope with these thoughts and feelings depend upon ones’ own personality type, how advanced ones’ cancer is, the treatment one is receiving and how much support there is around the person. For example, certain cancer treatments could cause depression.; a side effect of chemotherapy, known as chemo brain can cause intense fatigue, mental fog, depression and other forms of cognitive impairment.

According to a research done in University of Leipzig in Germany, one in three people diagnosed with cancer also ends up coping with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression.

However what is important to be known is that, this can be countered. Psychotherapy with an experienced therapist or psychologist can be helpful in terms of providing a listening ear and giving guidance from the start to a diagnosed patient. Mindfulness based cognitive therapies and mindfulness based stress reduction have also been proven to be highly effective countering the stress and negative thoughts, and increasing positive and more optimistic thoughts, which in turn would improve the patients quality of life.

Mental health treatment should be an integrative part of caring for both the patient and those around them. With the support available in counseling and psychotherapy, no patient or their loved ones need to suffer in silence. By seeking treatment for mental health conditions, patients will be able to better carry on with the healing process and loved ones and caregivers will be better able to fulfill their personal needs and the needs of the patient.

In todays world, with all it’s advancements, it your turn to take a step forward. So if you or a loved one is suffering from a diagnosis of cancer, don’t be afraid to seek help. Reach out, Be aware. Take action.


-Kavitha Amaratunga


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