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A cancer diagnosis is life-changing and can affect more than just your physical health; it can weigh heavily against your emotional, mental and spiritual health, and affect the relationships between family and friends as well.
That’s why it’s of key importance that someone undergoing cancer treatment receives strong psychological support that can help them come to grips with their diagnosis and ensure their physical health is propped up by feeling emotionally stable and well-supported by loved ones.
Every cancer treatment, whether undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy, proton beam therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of treatments can take its toll on the patient – especially their emotional and mental health.
This directly affects the healing process during the cancer treatment course. And patients that find they are struggling emotionally or mentally may not recover as quickly than a patient with suitable support.
Every cancer treatment is unique to the patient and while there are commonly shared side effects between treatments, every patient is going to have a different experience with their specific treatment (To learn more about differing cancer treatments, see here for more information).
How poor emotional health affects healing
Too often, our emotional and mental health are cast aside when facing a traumatic injury or dealing with a long-term illness and it’s not difficult to see why. Many people simply find it hard to approach something that we can’t see physical evidence for. That’s not to say that no one appreciates or understands mental illness; only that if you are faced with someone who is undergoing cancer treatment, the most common reaction is to try and avoid the topic with many people struggling to ask that all important question ‘How are you feeling?’
We aren’t expected to be doctors, psychologists or trained counsellors, but offering a friend or loved one a sounding board for their feelings can be hugely beneficial to their healing process.
Some patients feel like they should keep these thoughts and feelings to themselves so as not to feel like a burden, but they are doing more harm than good and could even be setting their healing process back tremendously. This could lead to additional treatments, increased doses for individual treatments, or even wear the patient down enough that their body stops putting up a natural fight to the disease.
Helping someone get back to mental strength
If you have a friend or loved one undergoing cancer treatment or even just an ongoing medical procedure that is affecting their mental and emotional health, make sure to check in with them frequently and ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling and if there is anything you can do to make their life that little bit easier.
It’s important that patients undergoing cancer treatments should remain active and spend time with people that care about them. It’s also important to stick to a regular routine, including eating, sleeping and exercising. It is easy to spend the day in bed feeling sorry for yourself but by keeping a routine you ensure you get necessary nutrients and keep your body active and fighting.
Cancer is, sadly, not going away anytime soon and an incredible 1 in 2 people in the developed world are diagnosed with cancer. While the available treatments have come a long way (such as a genetically modified version of the measles virus to treat mesothelioma) and are helping more people than ever before undergo curative treatments, we still need to act to support cancer patients everywhere in their mental and emotional struggles.
Even if no one in your immediate circle has undergone a cancer diagnosis, look to your local cancer charities, who are doing a lot to help patients and treatments across the world.
Volunteer your time and resources or make a donation that can be used to help someone less fortunate who may not have a good support system to help them through their treatment.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate, so neither should our support. Remember, this could happen to you or a loved one in the future so by helping to support others today, you’ll be more welcoming of the support should you find yourself or a loved one in this situation.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.