Cancer is an increasingly common health concern, with the incidence world wide predicted to rise 62% by 2030 (Cancer Research UK, 2020). Most people experience a variety of changes to their physical and mental health after a cancer diagnosis, during treatment or when treatment ends. Some of the common concerns that our clients with cancer have raised, are summarised below. At the bottom of the page we outline how Mind Body Clinical can help.
Coming to terms with diagnosis
Many people describe being given a new cancer diagnosis as “shocking” and “difficult to come to terms with”. It takes time to process this kind of news and to adjust to the impact on your everyday life. A cancer diagnosis often brings up worries about the unknown, uncertainty about the future and can raise a lot of questions, like:
What impact will my diagnosis have on my length of life and quality of life?
Will I be able to work? How will it impact my employment?
How will I manage financially?
What will I say to my friends, family and loved ones?
How will I cope with treatment?
What will life be like during and after treatment?
Coping with cancer treatment
Going through cancer treatment is often described as a challenging and confusing process. On one hand it may provide a cure, lengthen life or improve quality of life. On the other hand, going through treatment can be very stressful and worrying and result in a number of difficult side effects, such as: fatigue, pain and cognitive impairment/brain fog (e.g. problems with memory, concentration and planning). Some treatments can lead to changes to other bodily changes, such as: weight loss, weight gain and hair loss. These changes can impact confidence and mood.
Our clients often report significant disruption to day-to-day life in light of these challenges, such as: taking time off work/loss of employment, difficulty being physically active and getting things done and disruption to relationships and social life.
Making decisions about treatment can also be tricky and the available choices are not always straightforward. Your oncologist may not always be able to give a clear indication of the outcome.
Dealing with the post-treatment and recovery
One of the most frequent concerns expressed by clients, is the worry about cancer returning. This can present as difficult thoughts and feelings that are persistent, bothersome and may prevent you from getting on with important day-to-day activities, or moving forward with life. Our clients frequently speak about residual pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties which can make everyday life more challenging than it used to be.
Long-term treatment and palliative care
Some types of cancer are difficult to treat and the intent of treatment may therefore be to lengthen life and improve quality of life. It can be difficult to come to terms with the idea that cancer cannot be cured and that ongoing treatment is required to sustain life.
Palliative care involves the management of difficult symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue, nausea and constipation) associated with either cancer or treatment, with a view to improving quality of life. For some individuals with limited treatment options the focus may be on getting the most out of the here and now and planning for the end of life. This can be difficult and distressing and it can be hard to know where to focus your energy.
How can Clinical Psychology Help?
It often takes some time to adjust to some of the changes that a cancer diagnosis and the effects of treatment can bring. Sometimes this process happens naturally, in time, on its own. Our clients have told us that they have benefitted from having a space to process their diagnosis, especially if they find it difficult to speak to people that are close to them. Clinical psychology appointments can provide a space to discuss your cancer journey and your concerns about the future.
It is completely normal to feel low or anxious given that cancer is a major change in a person’s life. For some people, these feelings are overwhelming and talking therapy can help then to feel more settled, in control and to cope with their circumstances as best they can.
In the initial sessions with your Clinical Psychologist, you’ll set clear goals which will help to focus the appointments to meet your specific needs. Common goals include:
· Learning to manage difficult thoughts, feelings or symptoms
· Making decisions about treatment
· Being able to communicate better with others (e.g. family or healthcare team)
· Re-evaluating what is important to you
· Adjusting to physical/psychological changes
· Getting life back on track
· Coming to terms with a diagnosis or prognosis
· Dealing with worries about cancer coming back
How can exercise therapy help?
Regular exercise can help people with a cancer diagnosis in a variety of ways. Physical activity is important for the long-term management of pain and fatigue, which are common side-effects associated with cancer and treatment. By working with a Clinical Exercise Specialist you can learn to manage your activity and energy levels better so that you can engage in a broader range of important everyday activities.
Exercise is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. It has also been shown to improve cancer related cognitive changes/brain fog. The right combination of diet and exercise advice can help you to achieve a healthy weight again and over time help you to re-gain confidence. It can also help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or the management/development of other health conditions.
Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/worldwide-cancer/incidence#heading-One
, Accessed [December] .