Cancer is as much a psychological issue as it is a physical disease. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is not just the person who is affected but the entire family and friends too. There is a lot of research that has been carried out on cancer psychology, due to which, the doctors are currently in a much better state to manage the psychology of the patient and family compared to a couple of decades earlier.
So, when a person is diagnosed with cancer, known as the big C, there are stages that a person goes through.
The first one is of shock and disbelief, with most people unable to digest the fact. There is often the question of “why me?” The fact is that the risk factors for cancer are constantly evolving, and so it is difficult to answer this if there is no clear reason evident.
- Anxiety and depression: Given that there is still a lot of fear and uncertainty about a complete cure for cancer, patients get anxious and distressed. They slowly begin to come to terms and realize that they need to start working on the treatment plan, so the condition improves. There is also another angle, as there are various options, and the treatment they choose will determine the course of the disease. There may be periods of sadness, isolation, lack of interest in regular activities, appetite loss, and restlessness.
- Guilt: There is also an angle of guilt, especially when there is a definite cause associated with it, like alcohol, smoking, high-risk sexual behavior, etc.
- Coming to terms: It is within a couple of months that the patients come to terms with the situation and realize that there are things which are under their control, which can make a difference. They begin to focus on good food choices, meditation and staying positive. They also do financial planning in terms of insurance and sorting out legal issues in case of an eventuality. Many also are open to seeking support in terms of family and friends and social networks. This can help them give a feeling of inclusion and that they are not alone in what they are experiencing.
All said and done, cancer psychology is as unique as each individual. The response would depend on the patient’s personality, his support system, stage of identification of cancer, and how well it responds.
There is no prescription available readily to manage the person’s psychology once they are diagnosed with cancer. This can be managed via:
- Counseling with a close friend or family member, social worker, psychologist, social support groups, etc.
- Other things which can help include meditation, antidepressant medications, exercising, and spending time with family, etc.