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Mental Health in the Cancer Journey

What Is Mental Health?

Good mental health and supportive relationships are an important part of navigating the cancer journey. Mental health refers to psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It includes how we feel, think, act, and relate to other people.

Having good mental health can improve medical outcomes and quality of life for both patient and family.

Ways Better Mental Health Supports Medical Outcomes:

  • Coping with procedures and daily medical needs
  • Adherence to medication and other therapies
  • Managing stress
  • Understanding information and making decisions
  • Supporting healthy habits like sleep, nutrition, and physical activity

For families facing childhood cancer, there are many challenges that can negatively impact mental health. These challenges include:

  • Coping with physical symptoms
  • Worry about the future
  • Stress of care decisions
  • Change in daily routine
  • Financial concerns
  • Separation from friends and family
  • Managing life outside of cancer

Ups and downs in mental health during cancer are expected. During serious illness, there will be negative thoughts and emotions. Feelings of stress, worry, and sadness are normal responses to a very abnormal situation. 

Lows can come at different times for different people, and struggles can continue even after recovery from cancer. Sometimes, these feelings are symptoms of a more serious problem like anxiety or depression. But, more often, these are normal reactions to a difficult time.

Healthy adjustment is a process. Coping involves struggle and finding ways to regroup and move forward. It can be easy to neglect mental health when the focus is on immediate medical needs. But, even patients and families who are coping well can benefit from resources to support mental health as they face the challenges of cancer.

Support for mental health can come from a variety of sources, including:

There may be days when you feel like you have it together pretty well. There may be days when you feel like you can’t handle one more thing. Seeking help for mental health does not mean something is wrong with you. Support for mental health provides strength to help you fight your cancer battle and achieve your goals.

Reviewed: June 2018