Feeling anxious, worried or scared about cancer? We’re here to help.
It’s normal to have worries about cancer, especially if someone you love has been diagnosed or has passed away. Maybe you have symptoms and are worried it might be cancer or you’re worried you’ll get it in the future. If your worries are making you feel anxious, scared or upset, it’s important to get the support you need.
Someone I Love Has Cancer
When someone you know is diagnosed with cancer it can come as a terrible shock. Even if they’ve been unwell for some time or had suspected cancer might be the cause of their symptoms, getting a definite diagnosis is news no-one wants to hear. It can take a while for the news to sink in and process and you may feel numb or in complete disbelief. This is completely normal, and many people feel like this at first. As the shock subsides, feelings of anxiety, fright and worry often take over, and you may feel helpless and lost. It’s important to reach out and talk to someone about how you’re feeling.
When supporting someone with cancer, it can be difficult to remain optimistic but it can help to focus on the positives such as the treatments on offer or if they’ve had a ‘good day’ (when their symptoms haven’t been quite as painful or debilitating). Your no.1 priority will be to support the person who has cancer but it’s equally important to take care of your own mental health, too. If you feel like your anxiety is getting the better of you or it’s making day-to-day life very difficult, make an appointment with your GP. Talk to them about your struggles and be honest about how you’re feeling.
What If I Get Cancer?
Some people develop a fear of getting cancer and this is also common. Even if you don’t have any symptoms and your fears are medically unfounded, you might still have a real anxiety that you’ll get cancer. You may have seen something worrying about cancer on TV or online or read something that made you feel anxious. You may have lost loved ones to cancer or have family members who’ve had it and feel scared that you’re ‘next’. If thoughts like this are dominating your mind and making you feel incredibly anxious, please seek help and make an appointment with your doctor.
Dr Dawn Harper says:
“Remember, it is OK to prioritise you own mental health. You will be a better friend and relative and more able to support those close to you if you are in a strong place emotionally. And if fear of cancer is taking over your life, please do talk to your GP. Tell him or her exactly how you feel. They will understand and will be able to signpost you to local support services to help you with your anxiety.”
Having anxiety about your health can take its toll on your mental wellbeing. Whenever you feel like your anxiety is getting too much or a panic attack is imminent, try grounding techniques to help you connect to the here and now: play relaxing music, close your eyes and take deep breaths or list five red things you can see around you. Get more grounding techniques to try here.
For more advice on coping with anxiety, click here.
I Think I Have Cancer
If you’ve noticed changes in your body or are experiencing symptoms that you think might be cancer, it’s really important to make an appointment with your doctor to get checked over. Changes you should see your GP about can include:
- Difficulty swallowing or feeling like something is stuck in your throat
- Increased painful heartburn or indigestion
- A swollen tummy
- Sweating heavily through the night
- Feeling breathless for no reason
- Looser poo or a diarrhoea lasting for more than 3 weeks
- An ulcer or sore in your mouth that hasn’t healed after 3 weeks
- Blood in your pee or poo, or bleeding between periods or after sex
- A new mole or change to an existing mole
- A cough or hoarse voice that lasts for more than 3 weeks
- Any new, unexplained pain on your body that lasts for 3 weeks or more
- Unexplained weight loss
- Finding a lump or swelling on your body
- Feeling more tired than usual
It’s important to remember that having one or more of these symptoms does not usually mean you have cancer but it’s always a good idea to get properly checked over by your doctor. For more help and advice about cancer and supporting someone who has cancer, click here.