Emotions of Cancer



“I don’t think the doctor made the right diagnosis. I don’t think he is a very good doctor. 

I can’t have cancer, I live a healthy lifestyle,I am vegetarian, I have annual checkups and screening.

I think I need a repeat biopsy…..I need a second opinion”

These are common statements us as doctors have come across when patients learn of their diagnosis. One of the ways people react to very shocking and disturbing news is to deny it is happening. This is another completely natural reaction and totally understandable. Our mind is working overtime to rationalize away the trauma, to protect our heart from the emotional storm that will follow once the reality sets in. We may not even realize we are doing it, it could be at the subconscious level. 

Some people will try and cope by 

  • pretending it’s not happening
  • avoiding the topic and also avoiding doctors/oncologist appointments 
  • delaying treatment decisions  

Being emotionally fragile is completely understandable and it may take some time to work through those emotions. However, it does sometimes put patients in a vulnerable position to be taken advantage of by unethical health professionals or vendors who may tap into the patient’s sense of denial or fear or anxiety to hype up their services or products, over-promise cure and downplay side effects. Please do be careful. A diagnosis of cancer evokes powerful emotions in people.

The following is resource material from the CRUK

Shock and denial Coping with cancer

Total Denial

In extreme cases, denial can be unhelpful. Some people deny their cancer so firmly that they convince themselves that either they aren’t ill at all, or that their illness isn’t cancer.

You may need professional help from a psychologist or counselor if this reaction starts to get in the way of your treatment or makes your overall situation even worse.

Other People Being In Denial

Sometimes you may find denial happens the other way round. You might need to talk about your cancer, but your family and friends may be the ones in denial. They might:

  • try to dismiss the fact that you are ill
  • seem to ignore the fact that you have cancer
  • play down your anxieties and symptoms
  • deliberately change the subject

People can react in this way because they are frightened of cancer themselves. They may be embarrassed by talking about it. Or they may be terrified that someone they love has a life threatening condition. If they don’t talk about it, they can try to pretend it isn’t happening.

But if you want their support, and to share how you feel with them, this behavior may hurt or upset you. If you feel like this, try to:

  • tell them how you feel
  • reassure them that you know what is happening
  • explain that talking to them about your illness will help you

Talking About Your Cancer

Talking about your situation really can help.

It might help you to talk to a counselor if you would like to share your feelings with someone and you don’t feel able to talk to your friends and family.