Cultivating Mental Wellness After Cancer

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Article
HealSpring 2024
Volume 11
Issue 01

In our issue of Heal Spring, we bring awareness to important topics, such as mental health after cancer treatment and how survivors can mend their minds.

Hands holding blue happy smile face. mental health positive thinking and growth mindset, mental health care recovery to happiness emotion | Image credit: © - Kiattisak - © stock.adobe.com

Learn more about mending the mind, piece by piece in the spring issue of Heal, a magazine for cancer survivors.

For many survivors, discussing their mental health in clinical settings doesn’t happen enough during and after cancer treatment. This may lead to difficulty easing back into the life they considered “normal,” with its responsibilities such as returning to work or taking care of their families. Addressing psychological needs after cancer treatment is essential to healing the mind piece by piece, and the spring issue of Heal® brings awareness to this important topic.

“What has happened is [patients], physicians and people on the care team underestimate the psychological impact of cancer,” says Dr. Patricia Ganz of UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. “The patient is realizing, ‘[Treatment] may be over, but my life is forever changed and I’m still a cancer patient/survivor.’”

We hear about two survivors’ experiences as they discuss managing their mental health by finding their purpose, seeking support and advocating for themselves and others. We also talk with a distinguished medical oncologist who focuses on survivorship and emphasizes the need for medical professionals to ask patients about their mental health status before they receive a diagnosis of cancer; survivors may experience more difficulties if these needs are not addressed earlier on.

Engaging in moderate activity can ease tension and effectively manage mental health after cancer treatment. A clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist offer insight into techniques and strategies to exercise the mind and body for better quality of life. They also recommend ways to find support through group settings, which may help survivors work through anxieties and stress related to cancer.

“One of the strategies we teach cancer survivors in our research and clinical program isn’t to avoid worrying, but to go ahead and worry, and to do it in a time and place of their choosing,” says Daniel Hall of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. “We call this ‘worry time.’”

Also in this issue, sociodemographic factors may play a key role in cardiometabolic conditions among cancer survivors. We speak with a clinical psychologist from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida about what these cardiometabolic conditions, which frequently affect survivors who identify as Hispanic or Latino, entail and where disparities regarding heart-healthy behaviors lie.

In our survivor spotlight, Dr. Dustin Deming, a gastrointestinal oncologist and a survivor of rectal cancer, discusses his experience with the cancer type he specializes in, which he considers “extremely ironic.” However, he says, his experience allows him to better empathize with his patients. Being a survivor of rectal cancer also gives him an opportunity to share his story with his patients, and he says that he’s “truly honored” to be on their care team.

Lastly, we have two sweet and savory sauce recipes that pair nicely with almost any meal this spring. If you’ve been looking for some new flavors, these quick and easy recipes are just for you! For fans of fruit, I highly encourage you to try the mango avocado dressing over a mix of leafy greens and fresh vegetables.

As always, we hope you find our stories inspirational and informative. Thank you for reading.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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