Why Taking Care Of Your Mental Health Is Important In Cancer Patients

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Surviving through cancer is a challenging journey. Aside from the mounting cost and physical exhaustion of undergoing treatment, the disease’s mere diagnosis can severely affect a person’s mental health. It makes you fearful, anxious, sad, or angry. 

While these feelings are valid and expected, cancer patients are prone to developing various mental illnesses when improperly managed. Among these conditions are depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. 

Psychological conditions could worsen the patient’s battle with cancer dramatically; that is why taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. It may not be the first time you will hear this, but we could not stress enough how important a healthy mind is in achieving a healthy body, and vice versa. 

Common Mental Health Problems With Cancer 

What are the common mental health problems among cancer patients, and what are their symptoms? 

1. Depression 

Depression is the most prevalent mental health issue with cancer patients. It causes extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and demotivation.

Feeling down and disinterested are normal emotions, especially with chronic illnesses. Still, if the feeling lasts throughout the day for at least two weeks straight, it could be a sign of a clinical depression already. 

2. Anxiety

 Anxiety is another normal emotion felt among cancer patients. As you get diagnosed with cancer, you tend to fear for your life and worry about your relationships and plans. Your body responds to stress in the form of anxiety. However, frequent episodes of anxiety with or without the presence of a real threat are unhealthy for our well-being.

What are the common symptoms that cancer patients experience when they have anxiety? 

  • Fatigue 
  • Uneasiness 
  • Feelings of uncertainty 
  • Fear of death and side-effects from treatment procedures
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Sleep-related sleeping 
  • Loss of appetite
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  1. Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress

This condition is like a less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by patients during or after cancer treatment. Like PTSD, cancer patients may develop some form of trauma towards everything to do with cancer because of various stressful events.

These events include the adverse effects of the treatment process, financial costs, impact on social relationships, and goals. In the presence of a trigger, symptoms of cancer-related post-traumatic stress include: 

  • Development of uncomfortable and intolerable feelings
  • Nightmares and flashbacks 
  • Shifting to self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism or smoking 
  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly 

These psychological conditions’ symptoms are very similar to symptoms of cancer itself. It is for this reason why most mental health conditions are left unaddressed and undiagnosed. 

Apart from this, even if symptoms are present, some cancer patients chose not to disclose it to anyone. Some of them feel that bringing them up would be a waste of time for other people. On top of all these cancer-related mental health issues, cancer patients alarmingly have a higher risk of committing suicide. 

If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms, do not feel bad. However, to improve your overall condition, you should also undergo appropriate emotions and thought management just as you receive your cancer treatment. 

Benefits Of Good Mental Health For Cancer Patients
We have emphasized the connection between our mind and body and its possible effects. But so far, what do studies tell us about the benefits of good mental health in surviving cancer? 

  • Taking Care of Your Mental Health Helps Prevent Cancer

Cancer may be hereditary or a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Different factors can cause cancer, but prevention is better than cure. 

Several studies show how keeping a good mental health condition can do wonders for your immune system—for example, calming your mind through relaxation methods, such as yoga/meditation, kick-off the body’s tissue repair action. Tissue regeneration can prevent the development of tumors and cancer, as well as other diseases. 

Furthermore, a study found that people experiencing psychosocial problems also tend to have difficulties sleeping. In turn, lack of sleep can make a person moody, develop heart problems, and increase cancer risk. Whereas, a stable mood condition leads to good sleeping and productivity habits, which later on leads to better health. 

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  • A Stable Mental Health Improves A Cancer Patient’s Survival Rate 

 The mortality rate is also higher among cancer patients with a prior diagnosis of a psychological disorder. Why is this so? 

– The burden of dealing with psychological stress and diagnosis could worsen how a person sees and handles his/her whole cancer diagnosis. 

– Patients with prior psychological disorders can also be uncooperative. If they are more addicted or fixated to unhealthy coping practices such as binge drinking, they are less likely to show up on checkups religiously. 

– Cancer patients who are having financial problems may be at more risk in developing psychological issues. However, reaching out to them can still be hard. Systems in place may not be capable of meeting the gap between available assistance and patients’ needs. 

Healthy Ways To Psychologically Cope-Up With Cancer 

Having said all the ways psychological health can affect our physical health, it is still not too late to make some changes even if you are currently battling cancer or any other chronic illness. Here are some self-help tips you can do to reframe your perspective and improve your mental health: 

  • Self-Awareness 

Create a mechanism to increase your self-awareness, mood, feelings, and thought processes. You can do this by keeping a journal or a diary. In this way, hopefully, you will be able to analyze and rethink your self-destructive thoughts. 

  • Meditation And Breathing Exercises 

Meditation can improve your blood flow while slow, mindful breathing exercises can help calm your mind. Do this whenever you are feeling anxious or worried about your condition. Remember: stress and worries would not do you good.  

  • Seek Help 

Lastly, seek professional service and a reliable social support system you can count on whenever you are on the verge of losing hope. 


Why Being With Family Is Important For Cancer Patients

Cancer is one of the most dreaded diagnoses a patient can receive. It can feel overwhelming for someone to be diagnosed with cancer. At that time, more than ever, someone diagnosed with cancer will need their family and friends. When someone you love has cancer, you might want to help, but not know what to do. 

Cancer and its treatment have both physical and mental effects. Procedures such as chemotherapy can leave a cancer patient physically exhausted afterward.

The disease itself can render patients physically weak and unable to perform routine daily tasks. Psychologically speaking, patients can experience depression and feel hopeless. 

Help Them At Home 

A person who has cancer may require help doing previously effortless tasks. Basic tasks such as getting dressed, eating, or preparing food may become painful or outright impossible. Family members living with the patient will need to assist them, and possibly take on the responsibilities the patient previously had. 

The patient might insist on performing their usual daily activities, in defiance of their illness. Pushing themselves too hard can be detrimental; it helps to remind them that there is no shame in resting. Cancer is still a mortal foe to face, and the patient will need as much of their strength as they can to fight it. 

It truly helps someone with cancer to have more assistance than usual – they most likely won’t be able to help with responsibilities around their homes.

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Keep Social Contact 

Cancer patients can feel isolated, especially now with COVID-19. It’s critical to remind family members that have cancer that they are not alone. Remind them that they are loved. Studies have shown that mortality rates in cancer patients increase in depressed patients. 

Your family members with cancer need your support and your companionship. They need to know and internalize that they are not alone. They must feel that you are there to support them.

You might think that someone with cancer is best left alone to rest. Sometimes, that may be the case, but it is equally important to let the patient know that their family and friends will not forget them. 

Curb Hopelessness 

Patients might express feelings of hopelessness. The thought that cancer might end their lives at any moment is a staggering revelation. To someone with cancer, their lives might seem to be on a timer, about to be cut short. It can be easy for them to ask, “what’s the point?” 

That kind of thinking can easily lead to a never-ending downward spiral into hopelessness. A person in that spiral will find it difficult, if not impossible, to change their thoughts on the matter. To break out of that spiral, a person will usually need a push from the outside. 

That’s where family and friends come in. As much as possible, try to keep their hopes up. Each patient will respond differently – one person might need words of encouragement; others may prefer facts.

Whoever you find yourself assisting could need something else entirely. What is essential is that the patient – your loved one – does not lose hope.

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Keep Communications Open 

According to Anne Moyer Ph.D., cancer has various effects on a patient’s relationships. “These include distress, fears about the future, pain, changes in body and self-image, fatigue, and physical and sexual functionality.”

As a result, these can alter the relationships and activities they engage in. Some people might try to tough it out and not ask for help, especially emotional support.

Family and friends will play a crucial role in helping a cancer patient recover, but the patient has to know that help is available. Do not let them think that they have to do everything on their own – your loved ones should know that they can call on you, or call on a professional for mental health assistance. 

Given that family members are usually with patients, it will fall upon them to ensure that they keep communications with the patient open. The person with cancer needs to know that they can ask for help at any time.

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Take Care Of Yourself Too 

Cancer patients need their family around them, and having a loving support system is, without a doubt, helpful to their ability to recover. However, you will find it challenging to take care of someone if you neglect yourself. Make sure that you have your support systems as well. 

You might call on other family members or friends to help you maintain your physical and mental health. Just as your afflicted family member needs help and can ask for help, you too might need assistance.

Caregiving and the extra responsibilities you might have to take on can be tiring. Don’t forget about yourself while helping someone else. You, your family, and your loved one are in this fight together.


Why Cancer Patients Worry About Coronavirus

As a volunteer at organizations that support cancer patients, I have become friends with a lot of people who have the disease. Some of them are winning against cancer and showing it who’s the boss of their bodies. Others know that they are on the losing side and merely want to make the most out of their remaining days. Either way, I admire all of them for not giving up on life as soon as they have learned about the diagnosis.

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What worries most cancer patients now, though, is the coronavirus outbreak. Governors sent out an order to go into home quarantine indefinitely. Ill people are expected to practice more caution than everyone else. COVID-19, a viral disease, is not as effortless to shake off as flu, according to experts. Once the coronavirus enters your bloodstream, you can only pray that your immune system is tough enough to kill it.

The Virus Targets Immuno-Compromised Individuals

The most troubling fact about the coronavirus is that it targets immuno-compromised people. Cancer patients fall under this category. After all, chemotherapy and radiation force their immune system to protect healthy cells around the cancerous ones. If the virus goes into the mix, their immunity may become overpowered in days.

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This is why you should try to follow the quarantine regulations as much as possible. Do not leave your home anytime; isolate yourself in a room if you live with someone who goes out daily. In case you are alone, ask the store manager if they can deliver your essentials right at your doorstep. This way, the coronavirus will get less to zero opportunity to enter your domain.

Checkups May Be Postponed For A Later Time

A close friend of mine was supposed to meet his doctor on the 28th of March. It was well into the quarantine period, though, so it got postponed. His last chemotherapy session should have taken place a week after that, but it was canceled, too. The doctor merely advised him to take oral medication, which practically worked slower than usual treatment.

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Why is this happening, you may ask? Well, it is for the safety of both the cancer patient and the medical professionals. Chemotherapy often occurs in hospitals, and there may no longer be one that does not have a COVID-19 patient. In case they catch the coronavirus elsewhere and learn about it later, they may unintentionally infect the nurses or doctors they come in contact with during the session.

Transportation Can Be An Issue

Going from the house to the hospital and back did not use to be troublesome before the coronavirus outbreak. If the patient does not have a car, they can book an Uber or Lyft ride. Another option is to take the bus, subway, or taxi.

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Although public transportation has not been entirely stopped even when people have been told to stay at home, cancer patients cannot use them without caution. After all, the drivers have no idea whether their previous passengers have the virus or not. It may linger inside the vehicle and get transmitted to others.

Final Thoughts

A lot of states are starting to ease their quarantine orders at the time of writing this blog. Some businesses other than groceries and restaurants can now open, too. Despite that, it may not be safe for cancer patients to go anywhere as long as there is no treatment for COVID-19. If a cure is available, after all, you have a better chance of getting the coronavirus out of your system. Without it, well, all your efforts to beat cancer may go to waste.

Stay strong and stay at home!

The Role of Fibrotic Stroma Discussed at the SF Fibrosis Conference 2018


A lot was discussed and shared at the 2018 San Francisco conference. The main topic was the argument of whether fibrotic stroma serves as a support or a barrier in cancer, specifically in breast and lung cancer. But just what is a fibrotic stroma? Let us first know what it is, how it progresses, and why it is important to learn about this condition.

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Fibrotic Stroma Defined

Technically, the term ‘stroma’ refers to supportive and connective tissues that surround or are found within organs. When you say ‘sclerotic stroma,’ it describes a hardened and fibrous breast tissue but with no cancerous or malignant growth.

Fibrotic stroma, or stromal fibrosis, has multiple names. It can refer to fibrous mastopathy or breast disease or breast fibrosis. Currently, this diagnosis has progressed to nearly 10%. Histologically, it describes the growth of inter and intralobular tissue that continues to become dense, increases in number, but is usually benign.

Today, there is still no exact evidence of how it arises, although most studies show that it may be of estrogen-dependent origin that has initially caused the fibroblast growth. However, this has not shown to have an epithelial effect, which is also supported by the fact that the condition is found mostly in premenopausal women.

It is also believed to be a result of an involuted gland or a previously inflamed gland. There have been some reports of premenopausal women consulting their physicians about a palpable mass in their breast area. This has also become a more common diagnosis in patients who have undergone core needle biopsy.

Focal Fibrosis

Focal fibrosis of the breast, on the other hand, is typically described as a benign condition, seen as damaged or destroyed ductal and acinar structures with hypocellular tissues upon pathological exam. These findings, however, are not specific.

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It is a relief to know, though, that experiencing fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer. These breast changes are not uncommon, and women often feel these lumps on their surrounding breast tissues. They may also feel breast pain during their menstrual period because of this.


The Emotional Struggle Of Having An Anal Cancer (A Confession To A Therapist)

In all honesty, the diagnosis of anal cancer includes an unwarranted stigma on it. That is because when someone gets diagnosed with the condition, there is an instant buildup of shame. There is a constant questioning of “whys.” With that, a therapist would understand that the emotional struggle sometimes takes a big part of the whole recovery process. And that is due to patients’ mentality. There is an embarrassment because the condition appears located at the awkward part of the body.

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The Stigma

A lot of individuals do not realize that cancer does not control its existence. Meaning, you get to have it from any parts of the body, regardless if it is internal or external. Small and huge, mild or severe, still it won’t matter. Someone can get cancer just anywhere, including the anal. In some unfortunate cases, even if a lot of people understand what the condition is, they sometimes do not want to seek out help. These persons are too embarrassed to let others know that they have anal cancer. With that, the idea of stepping through the awkwardness of the whole situation becomes less confronting. Therefore, treatments get disregarded as well.

The Reality

Due to societal pressure and different perception towards the particular body part, individuals with anal cancer feel less confident about themselves. They try to ignore signs and symptoms without thinking about the possible growth and severity of the condition. So when things appear complicated and when they already decided to seek out help finally, it becomes too late. That is because these people tend to ignore what their body is telling them only because they consider their emotional state more. But no one can blame them. The judgments and criticisms they are afraid to get is the primary source of the damage to their mental health.

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Anal Cancer And Mental Health

People with anal cancer become over thinkers. That explains why almost all of them obtain a diagnosis of severe anxiety and clinical depression. The reason for that is the small percentage of individuals who are more concern about what could happen negatively. These individuals continuously think about stuff like undergoing surgery, financial battle along with the condition, hassle with therapy and treatments, and fear of dying. These negative thoughts become the center of their lives. There is a constant worry for everything that sometimes the whole scenario turns unrealistic anymore.

In some cases, people with anal cancer tend to become more irritable, angry, and unpredictable. Sometimes they feel okay but then can feel a little off in an instant. These people do not concentrate on what is in front of them and often try to waste time thinking about more significant problems. Nevertheless, these individuals’ worries become untypical that it begins to consume their lives.

Worry and stress are indeed natural. That is especially for those people who are experiencing a particular unfortunate event of their lives. So others can’t blame them for feeling and thinking that way. Becoming ill for the short or long period takes a toll on the physical, emotional, and mental aspect of every individual with anal cancer. One cannot fully understand what these people are going through. So with the entire stigma that covers the whole case of having anal cancer, everything emotional and psychological becomes a never-ending battle.

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Help, Not Criticize

It is understandable that even if we try to encourage these patients to undergo treatment and seek out help, they will genuinely ignore the advice. Some of them may not pay attention, and others can show no concern at all. But as concerned individuals, we have to become part of their journey. Instead of telling them how they should do things on their won, we have to walk them through their recovery. And the best way we can do that is by helping, not judging. We need to cut the stigma that keeps them away from asking professional help. We have to help them put an end to their unwanted feelings.

It is hard for patients with anal cancer to stay positive. That is especially when the social environment is not cooperating with their recovery. So instead of us becoming one of those negative people, we can try to become the accommodating ones. Who knows? Perhaps things will become a little different with these individuals when we show them that we can make a difference by just showing that we care.