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Cancer and Mental Health: The Psychosocial Effects of Cancer

January  05,  2018 in

Cancer doesn’t just affect your physical health – it impacts your emotional wellbeing. It’s common for both patients with cancer and their loved ones to experience a wide range of unusual or heightened emotions when dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the resulting treatment. These feelings may vary from person to person, but they are all completely normal.

Fear

Fear is a common reaction to a cancer diagnosis. Patients with cancer may be afraid of their prognosis, being in pain, feeling or looking sick, taking care of their families, and handling their finances. The emotional effects of cancer may also include feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty about the future. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to feel more in-control, including learning as much as possible about the cancer, asking the doctor as many questions as necessary, and staying actively involved in treatment decisions. Think of information as a tool you can use to help quell your fears and feel more empowered.

Anger

It’s extremely common to feel angry about your cancer diagnosis – or even resentful towards healthy friends, healthcare providers, or a higher power. The degree of this feeling can range from mild frustration to outright rage, and can be triggered by challenges in handling new physical and financial hurdles. Because anger often comes from other emotions that are difficult to process, the best solution is often talking to someone – a friend, a family member, or a mental healthcare professional – to explore ways to channel feelings into productive outlets.

Depression

Many patients with cancer feel sad about losing their health or the life they had before their diagnosis. Typically, the feelings of sadness pass – but if they linger, this could be a sign of depression. Depression is a treatable medical condition, so patients who experience feelings of intense sadness, emotional numbness, hopelessness, and insomnia should not hesitate to discuss these feelings with their doctor.

During cancer treatment, a patient’s body image may change due to hair loss, skin changes, weight changes, surgeries, or other changes to the body. Some changes may be temporary, while others are permanent. The key is to remember that it’s okay to respond to these changes emotionally and normal to feel sad, angry, and frustrated by them. Staying active, treating themselves to a new haircut or outfit, and talking with a loved one or therapist can help patients cope with their evolving body image.

The Effects of Cancer on Friends and Family Members

The psychosocial effects of cancer also apply to a patient’s friends and family members, who may also feel worried, angry, or afraid. Just as a patient may resent those who aren’t sick, healthy family members may feel guilty at not being in the same boat or helpless at being unable to significantly help their loved ones.

As cancer treatment continues, their relationship with a patient may evolve. Household and parenting tasks may change hands, and living arrangements may even need to shift to account for new care-giving needs, providing relationships with a more complex dynamic. Friends and family members are typically eager to help, but may not be sure how. The patient can help by asking for assistance in specific ways, and loved ones can help in turn by letting the patient continue to do as much as he or she is able.

Some families may find it difficult to discuss these issues, but a cancer health care team should be able to arrange a family meeting or direct patients and their families to a professional who is familiar with the emotional effects of cancer to help the whole family adjust together.

When Your Finances Are Hurting Your Mental Health

The costs associated with a later-stage cancer treatment and care can seem unmanageable. Getting proper treatment and maintaining a comfortable quality of life shouldn’t be threatened by lack of financial stability and an inability to afford a proper treatment plan. If you need financial assistance due to cancer or another later-stage illness, learn how Fifth Season Financial can help you access funds from your life insurance policy, while still preserving funds for your beneficiaries.

Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living and Giving (FLAG) program allows you to maintain ownership of your policy, receive an advance of its value, and preserve funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. If you think the FLAG program can help you alleviate some of the mental stress of cancer treatment costs, contact Fifth Season Financial today.

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