Emotions that Follow a Cancer Diagnosis

Emotions that Follow a Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer affects your mental health by stirring up a wide range of emotions within yourself, many of which you may not be used to dealing with. At any stage after receiving a cancer diagnosis, you might experience times of distress, most commonly experienced as a combination of disbelief, fear, anxiety, anger, and/or sadness.

This month, we are going over some of the most commonly experienced emotions associated with receiving and living with a cancer diagnosis. Next month we are going to share ways to cope with these emotions, so stay tuned.

Shock and Disbelief

Most people would report that shock is one of the first emotions felt following a cancer diagnosis. Many share that their ears stopped hearing, and that they went into shock.

It might take time to accept that you have been diagnosed, and that is okay. It’s important to remember with each of these emotions that you are valid to feel this way.

Doctor Says The Bad News To The Patient by photo_oles | VideoHive
Following receiving his diagnosis, he feels like the world around him has stopped.

Stress, Fear, and Anxiety

Both during and after treatment, it’s normal to have stress over all the life changes you are going through. Anxiety means you have extra worry, can’t relax, and feel tense.

You might be afraid or be worried about:

  • The treatment process and results
  • Side effects from treatment
  • Supporting yourself and your family
  • how your loved ones will react
  • Work responsibilities
  • Unknowns

Though stress is common, you will want to make sure it is not due to medicines or treatment. Plan to discuss with your doctor if you find yourself experiencing persist stress.

Panic Attacks

For some people, severe stress or anxiety can lead to panic attacks. If you have panic attacks after a cancer diagnosis, whether or not you have had them before, it is important to talk to your doctor or psychologist about ways to manage them.

Panic Attacks: Common Symptoms and How to Cope
Signs of a panic attack.

Sadness and Depression

Sadness is a natural response to loss and disappointment. You may be grieving the way cancer has changed your day-to-day life, your body or your future.

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning, or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression, which you should talk to your doctor about.

Don’t feel that you should have to control these feelings on your own. Getting the help you need is important for your life and your health.

Anger, Guilt, Blame

Wondering “why me?” is one of the most common sentiments that one facing cancer experiences. You might be angry at family and friends, at your doctor, at yourself, or even the world.

“Why me?”

If you feel guilty, know that many people with cancer feel this way. You may blame yourself for upsetting the people you love or worry that you’re a burden in some way. Remember that having cancer is not your fault.


Cancer can be isolating, even with many people to support you. You might feel lonely if your family and friends have trouble understanding and coping with your diagnosis, or if you are too sick to work, socialize with others, or enjoy your usual activities.

Loss of Control

Being told you have cancer can be overwhelming and you may feel that your emotions are out of control. It may also seem that you are losing control of your life – some people feel helpless or powerless.

It can help to control those things you can, such as by creating a plan to manage side effects. Feeling physically better can help you to feel emotionally better too.

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