Coping with cancer

Husband and Wife sitting on the edge of a hospital bedCoping is a very important part of life for every cancer patient. Most people need honest and accurate information regarding their illness, treatment plan, treatment options and prognosis. Patients and their families can often become overwhelmed with information as they try to understand the diagnosis. The truth is that feelings of grief and pain are normal, but the more you can share your experiences with others, the more likely it is that you will be able to cope with pain and grief you may be experiencing.

Some facts about pain

There are many myths about cancer pain, but here are a few of the facts:

  • Some people with cancer never have any pain at all.
  • If pain does occur, there are many ways to relieve it.
  • Cancer patients who take regular narcotic pain medication do not become addicted.
  • Your doctor will increase your pain medication only as much as is needed to control your pain. Usually only small adjustments are necessary.

Depression and cancer

Depression is a a disabling condition that affects approximately 15 percent to 25 percent of cancer patients. Depression is believed to affect men and women with cancer equally. Individuals and families who face a diagnosis of cancer will experience varying levels of stress and emotional upset. Fear of death, disruption of life plans, changes in body image and self-esteem, changes in social role and lifestyle and financial and legal concerns are significant issues in the life of any person with cancer, yet serious depression is not experienced by everyone who is diagnosed with cancer. 

There are many myths about cancer and how people cope with it, such as the following:

  • All people with cancer are depressed.
  • Depression in a person with cancer is normal.
  • Treatments are not helpful.
  • Everyone with cancer faces suffering and a painful death.

Sadness and grief are normal reactions to the crises faced during cancer. All people will experience these reactions periodically. Since sadness is common, it is important to distinguish between normal degrees of sadness and depressive disorders. A critical part of the cancer care provided by your physician is the recognition of the levels of depression present and determination of the appropriate level of intervention. That’s why it is very important to talk with your doctor about your feelings and ability to cope. Some people may have more difficulty adjusting to the diagnosis of cancer than others. Major depression is not simply sadness or a blue mood. It is a serious condition with recognizable symptoms that can and should be diagnosed and treated because they have an impact on quality of life.