Whichever stage of your cancer journey you are at, cancer anxiety is extremely common. For example, one of the most common worries for those who’ve completed treatment is the idea that the cancer may return. Remember, it is likely that much of what you are feeling is completely normal and it can be important to speak to others about your concerns.
Anxiety and cancer – the symptoms
Cancer diagnoses or post-treatment concerns may present as physical symptoms. If you notice any of the following, you may be suffering from anxiety:
Shortness of breath
Feeling light-headed or nauseated
Difficulty with memory or concentration
Anxiety can present in short bursts, or be a longer term issue. Short-term symptoms are likely to be temporary changes to your heartbeat, sleeping pattern or breathing, while longer-term symptoms might be feeling distracted, irritable or worrying excessively.
Again, this is perfectly normal. You may have realistic concerns about your health, side effects, the treatment, or the impact on your family. There are many ways you can manage anxiety and cancer.
Changing negative thought patterns
If you’re having trouble getting out of a ‘cycle of worry’, you may benefit from professional help. The IAPT Service (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) operates in York and Selby, with sessions such as cognitive behavioural therapy to alleviate anxiety symptoms. You can self refer to this service at their website.
You may also find you need a new focus – such as a new hobby or interest. These can be a healthy outlet for your thoughts and feelings, while you can also access help and support whilst being sociable with others. Alternatively, you may consider mindfulness techniques or calming practices such as yoga.
How to overcome panic attacks
Short-term symptoms of panic may occur if you’re feeling particularly anxious. You might notice changes to your breathing, nausea, sweating or the feeling that you’re ‘losing control’. It is important to remind yourself that anxiety will pass, and remember that it is an unpleasant but normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times.
You can overcome panic attacks with controlled breathing or grounding exercises. For instance, you could try the ‘5,4,3,2,1’ method. With this method, you need to count:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste.
Spend some time engaging with your senses and noticing what is happening around you in the moment. This helps to bring you into the present, rather than focusing on the ‘what ifs’ or catastrophic thoughts that your mind can conjure up, which may be causing your anxiety.
Cancer survivor anxiety disorder
It is common for people to suffer anxiety after cancer treatment. You have been through one of the scariest things that life can throw at you, and your brain will take some time to come out of its ‘high alert’ mode, designed to look for threats. You can manage your anxiety symptoms by keeping in regular contact with your doctor, who will be happy to give you advice. Try to write down any questions you might have, for example, side effects or the likelihood of the cancer returning.
Here for you when it counts
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, sad, angry or confused, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. The Leveson Centre at York Community Stadium offers support and advice, as well as complementary therapies for cancer patients who are three months post-treatment. Don’t forget – York Against Cancer is here to help. For friendly advice, give us a call on 01904 764 466 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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