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How to stay mentally healthy during cancer treatment

Being diagnosed with cancer affects your body and mind – but it’s common for people to focus solely on their physical health during this time.

However, it’s just as important to boost your mental wellbeing, as coping with cancer can take a toll on the emotions of not only the person diagnosed, but of those closest to them.

From receiving the  diagnosis, through the impact of treatment and the effects on your everyday life, the cancer journey is full of ups and downs. 

In fact, Cancer Council figures show as many as 40 per cent of cancer patients experience mental health difficulties at some stage, including depression and anxiety,.

But rest assured, you are not alone. Our caring team of specialists at Hollywood Private Hospital are on hand to support you.

What to expect

There’s no “one size fits all” response to cancer. As the initial distress subsides and treatment begins, it is common for patients to experience a range of feelings including fear, anger, anxiety and depression.

These are all normal responses to a time of immense upheaval, as your body undergoes physical changes and your regular life is interrupted.

It may be the first time you’ve had to consider your own mortality, and patients can understandably be wracked with fears of  the unknown.

Once treatment begins, side effects like fatigue, nausea, , lowered libido and sleep problems may  trigger psychological issues - or amplify existing ones.

Changes to a patient’s appearance like hair loss and weight gain can also lead to body image concerns and dwindling confidence.

However every patient responds differently to these challenges, and confronting your feelings is a crucial step in dealing with them.

Find someone to talk to

A problem shared is a problem halved, , so don’t keep your emotions bottled up.

Feeling like you have no one to talk to can impact negatively on your mental health and affect your ability to deal with stress.

The Cancer Council of WA says having a good support network is important for both practical and emotional help, and friends and family can make a world of difference at this confusing time.

It’s not always easy to reach out when you need support or some help around the house, but your loved ones often appreciate opportunities to feel useful.

If you feel your coping mechanisms begin to crumble, and you are struggling to stay afloat, it’s important to seek professional help.

Your Hollywood Private Hospital cancer care team are available to talk about any concerns, questions or fears you have, and can refer you to a mental health specialist if needed.Evidence shows that many people can avoid poor mental health outcomes if they receive a timely intervention.

Equally, your loved ones and carers may also benefit from counselling.

Top tips for emotional wellbeing

  • Accept that you are going to feel down from time to time – and it’s OK
  • Talk about your journey with those who understand through counselling services and support groups
  • Make time for light exercise, which has proven benefits for mental health
  • Consider relaxation techniques like meditation and breathing exercises to quieten your mind
  • Book in for an oncology massage – therapeutic touch can help reduce tension and anxiety
  • If your mood gets too low or anxiety skyrockets, talk with a doctor about a referral to a mental health specialist