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Navigating the Mental Health Challenges of Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Survivorship

Publication: The American Journal of Managed Care

The mental health struggle that accompanies a cancer diagnosis is real, and the burden of dealing with so many conflicting emotions falls not only on the patients but also on their caregivers, families, friends, and physicians. Having cancer is stressful and receiving a cancer diagnosis can bring a normal-seeming life to an abrupt halt overnight. Daily life becomes a series of never-ending appointments: biopsies, MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans, consultations, treatment simulations, blood work, genetic testing, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and on and on and on. The physical toll is evident, and the deeper emotional toll, too, is there from day 1, frequently manifesting in many days of tears, lots of anger, and too many questions to count. But the true emotional toll of hearing you have cancer, of enduring treatments that wreak havoc on your body, of emerging from a sort-of hyperfocus on survival often simmers just below the surface and can take weeks, months, maybe even years to work their way out.

There is no way to truly make someone understand what it means to be a patient with cancer unless they have been there before, whether as a patient or a caregiver, proving there will always be a need for comprehensive mental health services in cancer care to help heal the body and the mind. The complexity of these mixed emotions serves to highlight how vital mental health support is to cancer survivors.

Recent data from a Texas Oncology survey of patients with cancer paint a complex picture of the emotions they feel throughout their cancer journey. Although many are grateful for their ability to get through the toughest of treatments—45% “felt grateful” for their body’s perseverance—just as many, and sometimes more, expressed negative views of themselves. Half felt less attractive, 42% felt less self-confident, 37% felt uncomfortable in their own skin, and 31% felt less feminine or less masculine.1

Read the full article at The American Journal of Managed Care.

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