Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for copingIf you've been diagnosed with cancer, knowing what to expect and making plans for how to proceed can help make this stressful time easier.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Learning that you have cancer is a difficult experience. After your cancer diagnosis, you may feel anxious, afraid or overwhelmed and wonder how you can cope during the days ahead. Here are 11 suggestions for coping with a cancer diagnosis.
Get the facts about your cancer diagnosis
Try to obtain as much basic, useful information as possible about your cancer diagnosis. Consider bringing a family member or friend with you to your first few doctor appointments. Write down your questions and concerns beforehand and bring them with you. Consider asking:
- What kind of cancer do I have?
- Where is the cancer?
- Has it spread?
- Can my cancer be treated?
- What is the chance that my cancer can be cured?
- What other tests or procedures do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- How will the treatment benefit me?
- What can I expect during treatment?
- What are the side effects of the treatment?
- When should I call the doctor?
- What can I do to prevent my cancer from recurring?
- How likely are my children or other family members to get cancer?
Keep the lines of communication open
Maintain honest, two-way communication with your loved ones, doctors and others after your cancer diagnosis. You may feel particularly isolated if people try to protect you from bad news or if you try to put up a strong front. If you and others express your emotions honestly, you can all gain strength from each other.
Anticipate possible physical changes
Now — after your cancer diagnosis and before you begin treatment — is the best time to plan for changes. Prepare yourself now so that you'll be better able to cope later. Ask your doctor what changes you should anticipate. If drugs cause hair loss, advice from image experts about clothing, makeup, wigs and hairpieces may help you feel more comfortable and attractive. Insurance often helps pay for wigs, prostheses and other adaptive devices. Members of cancer support groups may be particularly helpful in this area and can provide tips that have helped them and others.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
This can improve your energy level. Eating a healthy diet consisting of a variety of foods and getting adequate rest may help you manage the stress and fatigue of the cancer and its treatment. Exercise and participating in enjoyable activities also may help. Recent data suggest that people who maintain some physical exercise during treatment not only cope better, but may also live longer.
Let friends and family help you
Often friends and family can run errands, provide transportation, prepare meals and help you with household chores. Learn to accept their help. Accepting help gives those who care about you a sense of making a contribution at a difficult time. Also encourage your family to accept help if it's needed. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and adds stress, especially to the primary caregivers. Accepting help with meals or chores from neighbors or friends can go a long way in preventing caregiver burnout.
Sep. 10, 2011
See more In-depth
- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime/allpages/print. Accessed June 28, 2011.
- Irwin ML, et al. Impact of nutrition and exercise on cancer survival. The Cancer Journal. 2008;14:435.
- Pekmezi DW, et al. Updated evidence in support of diet and exercise interventions in cancer survivors. Acta Oncologica. 2011;50:167.