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The Emotional Journey

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Cancer is a physical illness, but it also takes an emotional toll. The emotional aspects of cancer diagnosis and treatment can have a profound impact on your well-being. There is a direct connection between a patient’s coping strategy and their cancer treatment outcomes. In fact, patients who are able to keep a more positive frame of mind and maintain a sense of hope and purpose during their treatment and recovery often have better outcomes.1Cardenal V, Cerezo MV, Martinez J, et al. Personality,emotionsand coping styles: predictive value for the evolution ofcancer patients. Span J Psychol. 2012 Jul;15(2):756-767.

An increasing number of oncologists are recognizing the importance of emotional support for cancer patients. More than 90 percent of cancer patients and their families have high levels of distress that are directly related to diagnosis and treatment. Sixty percent of cancer patients and about half of their family members experience significant depression and anxiety.2 Rosenberger C, Hocker A, Cartus M, et al. Outpatient psycho-oncological care for family members and patients: access, psychological distress and supportive care needs. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol.2012 May;62(5):185-194. Epub 2012 May 7. Some cancer patients even experience post-traumatic stress disorder, a severe form of anxiety.3 Mystakidou K, Parpa E, Tsilika E, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder and preparatory grief in advanced cancer. J BUON.2012 Jan-Mar;17(1):155-159. These emotional issues can affect response to treatment.

Put simply, cancer patients and caregivers who receive emotional support and psychological care have better outcomes than those who do not.1, Cardenal V, Cerezo MV, Martinez J, et al. Personality,emotionsand coping styles: predictive value for the evolution ofcancer patients. Span J Psychol. 2012 Jul;15(2):756-767.2 Rosenberger C, Hocker A, Cartus M, et al. Outpatient psycho-oncological care for family members and patients: access, psychological distress and supportive care needs. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol.2012 May;62(5):185-194. Epub 2012 May 7. Therefore, it is extremely important to be aware of your emotional state and to actively work on your coping strategies and psychological well-being throughout your cancer journey.

Seeking out emotional support is not a sign of weakness. It is vital to maintain emotional health as you navigate the cancer journey.

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Hearing the word cancer is a scary thing. It puts your life at a standstill.Tony L. (oral cancer survivor)

Navigating the emotional journey

This website contains many articles about specific aspects of your emotional journey that you might find helpful. They fall into the following categories:

The Patient’s Emotional Journey

Cancer diagnosis and treatment affect a patient’s emotions and relationships in many ways. This section explores situations you might encounter during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. These include reacting to your diagnosis, dealing with fear of death and dying, handling intimacy and relationships, dealing with recurrence and determining when you need to seek emotional support.

The Caregiver’s Emotional Journey

Caregivers deal with a range of challenges surrounding the need to show strength for their loved ones while dealing with their own fears and anxiety. A caregiver’s emotional state directly impacts the cancer patient’s well-being, so caregivers need to attend to their own emotional needs. This section includes information about coping strategies and when to seek support.

Living with a Disfigurement

Some head and neck cancer treatments can create physical disfigurements that alter your appearance as well as changes in your head and neck that may have an impact on your ability to speak, eat, hear or see. This section can help prepare you for the intense emotions that may result from these changes.

Talking to People About Cancer and Treatment

Cancer can change your relationships with your friends and family. You often can better manage these changes with open communication. Learn more about how to do so in this section.

Helping Children Understand Cancer and Treatment

It’s never easy to explain illness to children, but there are ways to help them understand and cope. This section includes information that will help you talk with children from preschool to young adulthood about your diagnosis and treatment, changes in family life and dealing with their fears and anxiety.


References

1 Cardenal V, Cerezo MV, Martinez J, et al. Personality,emotionsand coping styles: predictive value for the evolution ofcancer patients. Span J Psychol. 2012 Jul;15(2):756-767.

2 Rosenberger C, Hocker A, Cartus M, et al. Outpatient psycho-oncological care for family members and patients: access, psychological distress and supportive care needs. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol.2012 May;62(5):185-194. Epub 2012 May 7.

3 Mystakidou K, Parpa E, Tsilika E, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder and preparatory grief in advanced cancer. J BUON.2012 Jan-Mar;17(1):155-159.