Cancer’s impact on mental health.

9.6 million people every year. 26,301 people every day. The number of deaths caused by cancer. In honour of World Cancer Day on 4thFeb 2019, a day which brings awareness to help prevent cancer, detect cancer early as well as advance current treatments, we decided to devote our weekly blog post to this extremely important issue. This post aims to educate people on the impact of cancer in order to give both cancer patients and their loved ones’ management skills.

Did you know that cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide? Reading the statistics, it is of no surprise that a diagnosis such as this could impact our Mental Health, but what exactly is the impact on both the cancer patient and their loved ones? And how can we manage these impacts?


Common Associations


An estimated 48% of cancer patients report high levels of anxiety, with 18% experiencing anxiety disorders. When a person is told they or a loved one has cancer, fear immediately sets in which heightens the individuals stress. Studies have indicated that suffering from anxiety can prevent patients from living their life as normal as possible e.g. performing activities normally, as well as impair their ability to follow through with treatment due to the fears associated.


An estimated 25% of cancer patients develop depression with the disorder being more common in women and elderly patients. Studies have indicated that untreated depression on the journey to recovery can cause significantly negative effects on other health issues, making it difficult for patients to decide on treatment paths, slowing recovery, as well as the most shocking – an increased risk of fatality. Some of the most common causes of depression in cancer patients are: psychological stress, biological problems, side effects of medication, reactions to chemotherapy, dysfunctional thyroid gland and an inadequate diet.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Due to the traumatic experiences associated as well as the high potential for a fatal prognosis with the disease, there is evidence supporting the existence of PTSD within both cancer patients and survivors. PTSD can impact a person’s sleep, social connections, functionality to name a few.

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the people close to them are also at an increased risk for depression, anxiety and PTSD, particularly if they have taken the role of caregiver. Due to the impacts on recovery Mental Illness has, taking care of your mental health is an integrative part of caring for the patient.



The statistics and evidence provided by studies indicate that Mental Health care is an essential part of managing cancer whether you are the patient, survivor or loved one. Some tips to help you manage effectively are below:

– Educate yourself on cancer. Although there are probably many people who shut down after hearing that they or someone they love have cancer, one of the most important things you can do to improve the quality of your life and those around you is to learn more about the cancer at hand. This can help make the disease less mysterious, less unknown and less frightening.
– Talk to medical professionals about how the cancer is impacting you mentally. Studies indicate that medical professionals misinterpret psychological disorders as much as 35% of the time, therefore it is extremely important to advise your medical professional when you have any feelings of anxiety or despair to ensure you get the treatment you need accordingly. Having a team around you to help provides a holistic approach to care.
– Be realistic. As hard as it may be, being realistic about how cancer can affect your life and the lives around you is an essential thing to do in order to be prepared.
– Surround yourself with a positive support group. Having support through a difficult time can help you stay positive. Spend time with family and friends, or if that is unattainable, join a support group.
– Psychological Intervention. If you find you are struggling with your mental health and would like help to establish coping mechanisms as well as management skills, psychological intervention could be extremely helpful to you.


If Cancer has impacted your life, Self Reflections Psychology is here for you and would love to meet you to help you transition to a healthier, happier mindset.

If there is anything you think was important to add into this weeks’ blog that was not included, or if you’d like to share your thoughts on cancer’s impact, we’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you all a lovely week, from the team at Self Reflections.


This week’s blog was based on information found in the following sources:

World Cancer Day

Cancer Quest

Psychology Today

Mesothelioma Group