Tips for Managing Anxiety During Cancer Treatment


Anxiety, fear and panic may be some of the most difficult feelings to manage during cancer treatment. Here are some ways of dealing with these emotions to make you feel better.

Anxiety, fear and panic may be some of the most difficult feelings to manage during cancer treatment. Here are some ways of dealing with these emotions to make you feel better.

Most patients with cancer don’t feel anxious all the time. But they might feel anxious:

  • Right before treatment;
  • After the treatment;
  • When thinking about going to the hospital or clinic;
  • When you go for a check-up, and/or
  • When waiting for results.

It helps to find your own way of dealing with your anxieties. You may want to try:

  1. Taking a relative or friend along to support you during treatment;
  2. Getting reassurance from nurses and doctors;
  3. Using relaxation exercises;
  4. Doing some form of physical exercise that you enjoy, and/or
  5. Having a reflexology treatment or a relaxing massage once a week.

If your anxiety is constantly affecting your everyday life and you feel in a permanent state of panic and worry, you might need professional help. Your doctor may recommend that you see a counselor help you find ways to cope with your illness, which is very common for patients with cancer.

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Remember that having cancer and going through treatment is an extreme experience and feelings like this are normal.

Getting help for serious anxiety is just as important as taking your medications. Continuous or severe anxiety can affect your mental, emotional and physical health and is not supportive of your cancer treatments.

Mental health professionals can provide tools that help patients develop a support system, improve their coping skills and prevent negative thoughts.

Keep a diary or journal of how you are feeling when each treatment starts. This can help you let your doctor know if you think your emotional symptoms are getting better or worse.

Mindfulness Techniques for Cancer Treatment

Another helpful technique is focusing on the present moment, which can help you reframe your relationship to uncertainty. Using cognitive behavioral skills and mindfulness meditation, you can prevent both avoidance and reassurance-seeking behaviors. Learning ways to let go of thoughts, tolerate moments of uncertainty and appreciate impermanence, especially when it comes to your physical symptoms, can be very helpful.

Relaxation Techniques for Cancer Treatment

Find a technique that helps you lower your anxiety and use it. Relaxation techniques can be used alone or combined with other types of treatment. Some of them may be done with little guidance. Others may require an instructor.

  1. Breathing techniques: This can be as simple as taking slow and deep breaths, in and out, 15 times.
  2. Guided imagery: Sound and words help you imagine a positive atmosphere, experience and feelings.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique includes tightening and then relaxing muscles. You begin at the toes or at the top of your head and slowly relax the muscles through the whole body.
  4. Meditation: You may choose seated meditation or meditative movement, such as Tai Chi. This technique involves focusing attention to achieve a sense of well-being in the present and to reduce stress.
  5. Yoga: This is the practice of using breathing and posture exercises to get to a relaxed state.
  6. Biofeedback: This includes paying attention to and controlling signals from your body, like your heart rate.
  7. Cognitive-behavioral skills: This can include setting aside “worry time” and learning to reframe fears.
  8. Expressive art therapies: Including dance, writing and art therapy, creative activities release your tension and fears.
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