Mental Health for Cancer Survivors
Anxiety, fear and depression are normal to experience at any point in your survivorship journey. Cancer survivors sometimes find it challenging to cope with new limitations or side effects from their cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is important to remember that you’re not alone. Sharing your experiences with others through a support group or online forum can help improve your overall mental health.
A Harvard University Heath Newsletter identified three major issues concerning mental health and cancer:
Fear of recurrence. The fear that your cancer can ‘recur’ or return is a legitimate concern. You can counter this fear with the knowledge that you are doing all you can to prevent a cancer recurrence and by understanding that if cancer recurs it is not your fault.
“Damocles syndrome.” A sword uncertainly dangled over Greek legend Damocles head, making him incapable of enjoying the great wealth before him. Some survivors are so fearful that their lives will be threatened again by cancer that they have difficulty enjoying things they once loved.
Survivor guilt. Close bonds may be formed with other cancer survivors during diagnosis and treatment. Guilt may be experienced if you survived and a fellow survivor did not. Often, survivors tend to ask, “Why not me?” when thinking of those who have died.
Understanding that changes and challenges to your mental health are normal can help you identify when to seek assistance from a medical professional. Fortunately, many cancer centers are being required to implement psychosocial assessment tools to help cancer survivors determine their overall mental health and the appropriate level of medical care, if necessary. Mental Health America of Georgia has compiled a list of resources in a variety of areas to help you achieve optimal mental health throughout your survivorship journey.
NCCN Survivorship and Depression
Cause for Concern: Shattering the Stigma of Depression and Breast Cancer
NCI Coping with Cancer: Supportive and Palliative Care
The Patient Story
Surviving the Book
Alliance for Quality Psychosocial Cancer Care: A Resource Guide for COC-Accredited Facilities: Meeting the Commission on Cancer Patient-Centered Standards