Almost all cancer survivors will face psychological and emotional issues that can show up many years after treatment. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer alone. Therapy, support groups, social media and community resources are available to help you cope with these issues. The first step in coping with psychosocial changes is realizing that you have an issue and having the courage to reach out for help.
Here are some of the most common psychosocial issues that cancer survivors may deal with:
Fear of recurrence: Many survivors worry that their cancer will come back at some point. Milestone events in their cancer journey can often trigger these feelings. Knowing your own body can help distinguish between normal physical changes and more serious symptoms that need to be reported to your doctor.
Grief is a natural result of loss. Loss can include your health, sex drive, fertility and physical independence. Support groups and counseling can help you work through these issues.
Depression: It is estimated that 70% of cancer survivors experience depression at some point. Know the symptoms of depression and seek treatment as soon as possible. MD Anderson’s Psychiatric Oncology Center provides counseling and medication for anxiety and depression. Call 713-563-6666 to request a referral.
Body image: Cancer survivors who have experienced amputations, disfigurement or a major change in physical function can suffer from a lack of self-esteem. A negative body image can affect your desire for intimacy and social interaction. Honesty and open communication with loved ones can minimize negative feelings.
Spirituality: Many survivors find that life takes on new meaning after cancer and will renew their commitment to spiritual practices or organized religion. Research suggests that spirituality improves quality of life through a strong social support network, adaptive coping, lessened depression and better physiological function.
Survivor guilt: Some people wonder why they survived cancer when others don't. If you suffer from a prolonged sense of guilt, seek help from a psychotherapist, clergy member or support group.
Relationships: You may find that friends, coworkers and family members treat you differently after a cancer diagnosis. They may avoid you or won’t discuss your cancer It can help to seek new relationships with other cancer survivors who know what you’ve been through.
The workplace: Cancer survivors often feel that they can no longer relate to co-workers who haven’t experienced cancer. You may be reluctant to talk about your cancer treatment to employers or coworkers for fear of being treated differently. See if your employer has a support group or other resources for cancer survivors.