Anxiety and Cancer
Anxiety may also be known as uneasiness, nervousness, worry, or fear.
What is anxiety and how is it related to cancer and cancer treatments?
- A disturbing feeling or sensation often experienced when facing overwhelming stress
- Anxiety can involve fear of the unknown (not knowing what to expect) or fear of
the known (knowing what to expect).
- Anxiety is experienced at some time by all human beings, but the cause is very different
for each person.
- Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe anxiety cause physical effects
such as nausea, diarrhea, irritable bowel, and may even affect your immune system
(lowering your resistance to illness). Severe anxiety may also have an effect
your ability to think clearly, job performance, relationships, & daily activities.
What are some symptoms to look for? Anxiety must include at least
3 of the following symptoms:
- Excessive worry about several events or activities
- Muscle tension
- Sleep changes (either being unable to sleep or sleeping more than usual)
- Physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, palpitations, trembling, shortness
of breath, chest tightness, nausea, diarrhea, flushing, dizziness, or high blood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical complaints
Things you can do to manage cancer-induced
- What puts you at risk for anxiety?
- Hereditary factors
- History of anxiety or panic attacks
- History of diabetes or hyperthyroidism
- Living with a chronic disease like cancer
- Overwhelming stress in your life
- Effects of some medications & chemotherapy
- Lack of information or control
- Unrelieved physical symptoms (like pain)
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Any persistent change in your ability to handle stress
- Anything that brings on anxiety or makes it worse
- Anything that helps you relieve anxious feelings
LOWER YOUR RISK FOR CANCER-BASED ANXIETY:
- Whenever possible, lower your risk (for example, avoid alcohol to relieve symptoms).
- Find a technique that works for you to lower your anxiety & use it (like slow
deep breathing, in & out, 15 times).
- Follow your treatment plan & take your medications exactly as prescribed.
- Your doctor may make a referral for you to see a counselor - to help you find ways
to cope with your situation. Getting professional help for severe anxiety is just
as important as taking your medications. Continuous or severe anxiety can affect
your physical, mental, & emotional health.
- Keep a diary or journal of how you are feeling once treatment is started. Let your
health care professional know if your symptoms are getting better or worse.
- Learn & practice new ways to handle the stress in your life.
Medications that your doctor may prescribe to minimize the effects of
- Lorazepam (Ativan®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
- Alprazolam (Xanax®)
- Chlorpromazine (Thorazine®)
- Buspirone (BuSpar®)
- Haloperidol (Haldol®)
If you are experiencing anxiety due to cancer or chemotherapy treatments,
the following guidelines suggest when
to call your doctor or health care provider:
- You have any questions about your treatment.
- Your symptoms get worse or occur more often.
- You have possible reactions to your anxiety medications. Reactions depend
on many factors, including how your body responds to specific types of these medications.
Some possible reactions can include:
- Increased anxiety
- Temporary amnesia
- Slow breathing
- Cloudy thinking
- Rigid movements & speech
- You are also feeling depressed.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health
care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information
contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute
for medical advice.