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Emotional Concerns

Quality of life is a term that defines a person's enjoyment and fulfillment in life. It usually encompasses your emotional, sexual, physical and spiritual health. Cancer can affect a person's quality of life in many ways. Worry, sadness, anxiety, and depression are common feelings associated with cancer. Patients dealing with these feelings often find it helpful to seek additional support. Services provided by Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Patient and Family Support include the following:

Depression

Feeling sad and having depression are two very different emotional states. Most of us feel sad from time to time and this is entirely normal. Depression, on the other hand, may be a serious condition that needs to be treated by a medical professional.

The Difference between Sadness and Depression

Sadness is a normal feeling that comes from experiencing a loss of some kind. With cancer, the losses can be many, such as the loss of one's health or the loss of feeling invulnerable. Depression has been defined as sadness that lasts longer than two weeks and is accompanied by difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits, loss of interest in life, and not doing things that used to be enjoyed. Sad feelings can last longer than two weeks and still may not qualify as depression. It just depends on the severity of the symptoms, their duration, and the context of the sadness.

When to Seek Help

When sadness feels overwhelming and interferes with your ability to function, it is time to seek help. Feeling suicidal is a definite symptom of clinical depression. People who are feeling suicidal need to be seen by a mental health professional as quickly as possible.

Anxiety

Feelings of fear, nervousness, and worry come and go in all of us and are entirely normal to have. Anxiety becomes a problem when it feels overwhelming and difficult to control. Uncontrolled, excessive anxiety can lead to ongoing feelings of restlessness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, persistent irritability, muscle tension, and problems with sleep. Additional physical feelings due to anxiety may include a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, stomach discomfort, and nausea.

Anxiety and Cancer

It is quite normal to feel anxiety around the time of diagnosis with cancer and the time leading up to the start of treatment. There are increased demands on both patient and caregivers to meet the many challenges posed by cancer. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the disease, its treatment, and the complicated decision-making process can all contribute to anxiety. Talking with doctors, nurses, social workers and cancer information specialists is the best first step in helping to cope effectively with anxiety that is either chronic or intolerable.

Psychological Distress

Psychological distress can affect how your body feels physically. When we feel distress, pain, nausea, fatigue or any bodily discomfort becomes more noticeable and difficult to tolerate. Often, patients with cancer will feel physical discomforts when confronted with aspects of their care that causes psychological distress. For example, it is very common for patients to feel nauseated before they have received a dose of chemotherapy because of their distress. It is important to receive help for your distress so that we can help you feel better both physically and mentally.

Psychological Effects on Physical Health

Psychological distress can affect how your body feels physically. When we feel distress, pain, nausea, fatigue or any bodily discomfort becomes more noticeable and difficult to tolerate. Often, patients with cancer will feel physical discomforts when confronted with aspects of their care that causes psychological distress. For example, it is very common for patients to feel nauseated before they have received a dose of chemotherapy because of their distress. It is important to receive help for your distress so that we can help you feel better both physically and mentally.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy such as guided imagery, relaxation techniques, hypnosis, systematic desensitization, biofeedback or music therapy may be helpful.

Anticipatory Nausea and Vomiting

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting can sometimes occur in patients who have already received chemotherapy and become nauseas or vomiting. These patients can then "anticipate" that the next dose of chemotherapy will also make them ill. The best way to treat anticipatory nausea and vomiting is to prevent it.

Treatment of Anticipatory Nausea and Vomiting

Talk to your doctor. Let your doctor know if you are experiencing these symptoms so that they can determine if the nausea and vomiting is "anticipatory" or another physiological reason.

Medications

There are several anti-nausea medications that can be used to control this type of nausea. You can take them in advance of your chemotherapy to keep the nausea under control.

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