How Do I Cope with Anxiety and Cancer?

Reviewed on 2/18/2022
Woman holding head in hands
Treatments available for cancer patients who experience anxiety include prescription medications (anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants), therapy, support groups, spiritual support, diet, exercise, and stress reduction techniques.

Anxiety is a common reaction to a cancer diagnosis. Cancer not only affects a person’s physical health; it can affect a person’s emotions causing anxiety and stress. Studies have found cancer patients are likely to suffer from anxiety, stress, depression, and other emotional challenges. 

There are a number of treatments available for cancer patients who experience anxiety. It is important to tell your doctor what you are feeling so they can recommend a treatment plan. 

Treatments for anxiety in cancer patients include: 

  • Medications 
  • Therapy
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to learn different ways of thinking about and reacting to anxiety 
    • Individual (one-to-one) counseling
    • Group therapy
    • Animal-assisted therapy
    • Laughter therapy
    • Crisis counseling
    • Couples and family counseling
  • Support groups
  • Spiritual support 
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular physical activity 
  • Maintaining a support network
  • Stress reduction techniques
    • Biofeedback
    • Breathing exercises 
    • Guided imagery
    • Hypnosis
    • Meditation
    • Relaxation techniques 

What Are Symptoms of Anxiety in Cancer Patients?

Symptoms of anxiety in cancer patients include:

  • Inability to relax
  • Difficulty controlling the worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • The feeling of being wound up or on edge
  • Difficulty sleeping (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restless sleep, or unsatisfying sleep)
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches/tension
  • Stomach or bowel problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression

What Causes Anxiety in Cancer Patients?

Causes of anxiety in cancer patients include: 

  • Fear of the unknown 
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Severe pain
  • Stress about how the cancer impacts the ability to work, care for family, travel or function on a daily basis
  • Fear about side effects treatments and whether they will work
  • Disability
  • Cancer that does not respond to treatment
  • Physical problems caused by the cancer 
  • Lack of caregivers
  • Medications that have side effects that cause anxiety
Reviewed on 2/18/2022
Image Source: iStock Images