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Living well with cancer health centre

Coping with cancer

The charity Macmillan Cancer Support says receiving a diagnosis of cancer can bring a range of emotions. These may include shock, anxiety, sadness, relief, uncertainty and depression.

The anxiety from the cancer diagnosis can affect many aspects of daily life, making it harder to concentrate, affecting mood, sleep and causing tiredness.

In you have concerns, consider asking for professional help from a GP, a counsellor or from organisations like Macmillan or charities specific to certain types of cancer. Sharing experiences through local cancer groups or online communities may help.

Here are some tips on coping with cancer.

Coping with anxiety

Anxiety from a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and cause panic attacks.

Some people find it helps to learn breathing exercises or try visualisation techniques to help with these times.

Reduce stress

Here are some tips for reducing stress:

  • Try to keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress

Take control

It may help to try to take control of your situation amid the worry and uncertainty of being diagnosed with cancer.

Finding out about the cancer, the treatments and outcomes helps some people gain more confidence. Talk to your cancer care team and use other trusted sources of information.

Macmillan recommends making sure a person with cancer looks after themselves, tries to stay positive and maintain a regular daily routine, and eats well. It also suggests taking things in daily steps and not looking too far ahead.

Physical effects

Help may be needed for extreme tiredness or fatigue due to cancer and its diagnosis. Common feelings include loss of appetite, problems sleeping and losing interest in sex.

Other things to consider

While no one likes to think about their own disability or mortality, it is something that should be considered by everyone - not just by those facing a serious illness. You should think about advance directives. These are special documents that describe your wishes regarding your medical care.

These include:

  • Advance decision or living will: This document indicates a person's preferences to refuse certain types of medical treatment if they are unable to make these known to health care staff in future.
  • Lasting power of attorney (LPA - England and Wales) and Continuing power of attorney (Scotland), Enduring power of attorney (EPA - Northern Ireland): These documents give someone else power to take over your affairs either temporarily or permanently.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 01, 2017

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