The Psychological Effects of Cancer – Much More Than Just a Physical Disease

Cancer is not just a physical disease. It affects all aspects of life which is why it is difficult to treat cancer. Cancer patients do not just suffer physically; they also experience psychological, emotional, mental and social pain. This is the reason why cancer treatment does not focus on the physical manifestations of the illness alone. In fact some doctors think that the psychological aspect of the treatment is as important as the physical. Cancer patients who have no willpower to fight the disease usually do not survive even if they undergo the most advance treatments. The psychological effects of cancer cannot be avoided but if a patient remains psychologically strong, he or she can beat cancer successfully.

Cancer Pain:

Pain is one of the worst physical manifestations of cancer. It can be mild or severe depending on the severity of the disease. Some patients feel the pain for a couple of minutes only but those who have advance stage of cancer usually experience continuous cancer pain. Pain can bring about many of the psychological effects of cancer. When a person is in pain, he or she usually feel stressed, anxious, depressed, sad and fatigued. When cancer patients feel stressed, anxious and fatigued, they cannot enjoy life and they cannot concentrate on doing any physical activity. In addition, they are usually irritable and they might sometimes act inappropriately. In many cancer treatment centers, pain management includes the psychological treatment of pain such as cognitive therapy.

Sleep Disruption:

Many cancer patients also suffer from lack of sleep which can also be a result of the emotional and mental stress caused by cancer. Many cannot sleep because of the pain or because they are thinking of the possible negative effects of the disease on them. Getting enough sleep is important for cancer patients because they need this to strengthen their immune system to fight the disease.


According to studies, 15 to 25 percent of cancer patients suffer from depression. Depression among cancer patients is characterized by decreased interest in activities, depression most of the time and feelings of worthlessness. They may also feel excessive guilt, lose their appetite and think of committing suicide. Depression is one of the worst psychological effects of cancer. To address depression doctors often use anti-depressants and they also use cognitive behavioral therapy.


Anxiety is something that humans normally experience when they do not know the outcome of certain situations especially if the outcome is potentially dangerous or negative. Since cancer has no definite cure, it is understandable for cancer patients to feel anxious. The most common reaction of humans to anxiety is avoidance which is a big problem for cancer patients. Due to anxiety, they might avoid going to their treatments and doctor’s appointments. Some even do not go to the doctor for diagnostic purposes because they fear what they might find out. To treat anxiety, many doctors recommend relaxation exercises to cancer patients. It is also good to analyze your anxiety patterns. Know the time when you usually feel anxious and take note of any factors which triggers your anxiety. These things can help you overcome the psychological effects of cancer.

by James Turner


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