Tips for Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelmingly stressful, so you need to make plans and decisions so that this period in your life would be less difficult. Here are 11 suggestions that might help you feel less anxious and afraid throughout the experience.

Get the facts about your cancer diagnosis

technician adjusting mammograph machine


Obtaining information about the illness will help you make informed decisions about the course of your treatment. Make a list of questions that you would like your doctor to answer. Bring the list with you so that you would get as much information as you can. Some of the important questions include:

  • What type of cancer do you have?
  • Where is the cancer located?
  • Has it started to spread?
  • Is this type of cancer treatable?
  • What are the chances to cure the illness?
  • What additional tests/procedures do you need?
  • What are the options for treatment?
  • How does the treatment look like?
  • What kind of side effect can you expect?
  • When would you need to call the doctor?
  • How can you prevent the cancer from coming back?
  • Is this type of cancer hereditary?

Before going to your appointments, think about how much information about the illness you would like to obtain. Some people prefer to know as many details as possible, whereas others prefer to know the basic facts. Consider how involved you want to be in making decisions about the treatment, and base your questions accordingly. Also, tell your doctor which amount of information works best for you.

It’s good to take a family member or a friend with you so that they would help you remember all the facts your doctor tells you.


Keep the lines of communication open

Remain open and honest about your cancer diagnosis. Communicate with your family, friends and doctors openly throughout the course of the treatment. Know that everything you feel is okay and you should express whatever emotion you have. That would give you strength and you will avoid feeling isolated.


Anticipate possible physical changes



Before you start with the treatment, it’s best to get informed and be prepared for changes that will occur during the treatment. Talk to your doctor about the changes that occur most often and how it would be best to deal with these changes.

Ask whether the type of treatment you will receive, would cause hair loss. In case it would, make plans about getting hairpieces, wigs and anything else that would help you feel confident and attractive. Hairpieces, adaptive devices and prostheses are most often covered by insurance.

Consider joining cancer support groups as they are most helpful in this situation. You will get valuable tips and gain coping techniques that helped other people.

Consider asking your doctor how the treatment would affect your daily routine and if there is anything that you need to change in your activities. Ask how often you would need to be in hospital and what would be the length of the treatment. Also, plan to take a leave of absence from work if it is required.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Base your diet on nutrition-packed foods that will help you increase energy levels. Also, getting enough quality sleep will help you cope with fatigue. Choose exercises you enjoy most, which will help you alleviate stress. According to recent studies, exercising not only helps in stress reduction but also prolongs life.

Let friends and family help you

When it comes to housework, running errands, getting groceries or transportation your family and friends can help you. Accepting their help will make your life much easier and give them a sense that they can help you in some way.

This time is also difficult for other members of the family. So, if your family needs help or rest, you can rely on neighbors and friends.

Review your goals and priorities

Think about the important things in your life and dedicate your time to the people you love and activities you enjoy. Going through a cancer treatment can impact all your relationships, so communicate with your loved ones. Talking to them will help you deal with the fear.

Try to maintain your normal lifestyle

You will need to adapt to the circumstances, but try to live the life you are used to and keep doing activities that make you happy. If you feel uncertain and scared about the future, planning can make you feel overwhelmed. Try modifying certain aspects of your life one day at the time.

Consider how your diagnosis will impact your finances

Get information about how long your treatment might take and plan your finances accordingly. This would mean that you will need to take a leave of absence. You’ll be away from home for a while. Consider what you would need to spend money on during the time, such as medications, transportation, parking fees, food and cosmetics. Often hospitals may offer resources throughout the treatment, as a financial help, so get informed about that with your healthcare team.

Talk to other people with cancer


You might sometimes feel that others who haven’t suffered from cancer cannot completely understand what you are going through. At these times, you might talk to others who have been through the same as you, and you can share your experience with them, which will give you much needed comfort in the difficult time. This will ultimately make you feel stronger and more prepared for the treatment.

Talk to any person you know that has been diagnosed or contact local support groups. The American Cancer Society is best known organization of this type.  Also, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network might be a good place to start.

Fight stigmas

Unfortunately, many stigmas related to cancer still persist among people. So, you might need to explain that cancer is not a contagious disease. There will be those with questions and those who might not know what to say. Express your feeling openly to your friends and even colleagues if you have the need. Choose how much you would like to talk about it and with whom. Others will pick up on your actions and behave accordingly.

Develop your own coping strategy

Each cancer treatment is different and so are people’s reactions and coping strategies. Consider these ideas and try to develop your own.

  • Talk to your loved ones openly and honestly
  • Try talking to a counselor and support groups
  • Pray or talk to a spiritual advisor
  • Develop relaxation techniques and meditate
  • Try writing and expressing yourself creatively
  • Find a way to deal with difficult decisions, like making lists, or getting advice
  • Spend some time alone
  • Maintain your usual routine as much as you can
  • Listen to music that soothes you, watch movies, read book and magazines
  • Finds something to look forward to each day

Try to remember other difficult times you had throughout your life before being diagnosed with cancer. Remember how you coped then that will help you now as well. You should do whatever makes you mentally stronger as our own thoughts greatly influence our own physical state.

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