Feelings and cancer

It’s natural to have many different thoughts and feelings after a cancer diagnosis. Some people feel upset, shocked or anxious, while others feel angry, guilty or alone. There's no right way for you to feel.

Emotions can be difficult for you, and people close to you, to deal with. You may find that some feelings pass with time, while others last longer. Try to find a way of coping that suits you.

It’s impossible to know how you will react to a diagnosis of cancer. Common feelings include:

  • shock and disbelief
  • anger
  • avoidance
  • guilt and blame
  • a loss of control, independence and confidence
  • sorrow and sadness
  • withdrawal
  • loneliness and isolation
  • fear and anxiety

There are many ways to manage your emotions. Sharing your thoughts and feelings is often a good place to start. Try talking with someone close. Remember, help is always available if you need it. Speak to your doctor, family or friend if you are struggling to cope.

How to talk to others

You may find talking about your feelings upsetting or uncomfortable. But putting how you feel into words can help you make the right decisions and feel supported.

There will often be relatives and friends who really want to support you. Talking to them about the type of support you need will show that you value them and will help them to know how to support you.

Talking can help you to make decisions and feel more in control of things. Discussing your fears or concerns can also help to understand them better and put them into perspective.

There are many reasons why you or people around you might find it difficult to talk about cancer. Sometimes, family and friends find it difficult to talk because they're struggling to accept your illness. If you don’t want to talk, try to be honest with your family and friends and let them know that you’re finding it hard to talk.

Tell people how they can support you. If you’d rather not talk about cancer some days, then let them know.

Help from your healthcare team

How we feel can affect us both physically and emotionally. If your feelings are very strong, it can sometimes be difficult to think and act normally. Usually, this only lasts a short time. But if your feelings stop you from living normally for a long period of time, you may need extra help.

Your GP and healthcare team can help you cope with your emotions. Try speaking with your GP or clinical nurse specialist first. You may also find it helpful to speak to members of the wider healthcare team, such as a:

  • counsellor
  • clinical psychologist
  • psychiatrist
  • community psychiatric nurse

Speaking to a specialist about your feelings does not mean something is seriously wrong. They are professionals, trained to help you manage your feelings.

Talking things through can really make a difference to how we feel. Talking therapies are individual or group sessions that help you to better understand your feelings through talking. You can also try to manage your feelings using complementary therapies. These are used alongside your normal cancer treatment, so speak to your doctor before using them.

Last updated:
03 February 2023

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