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Cancer and Fear

Posted 11/16/2016

Posted in

  Just about everyone is afraid of cancer. Although heart disease remains the #1 killer of Americans and there are many other dangerous and difficult diseases, most of us are more afraid of cancer.  Please do not misunderstand: I am not minimizing the power of cancer, but there has been real progress and many people do well.

  Cancers that used to be automatic death sentences are often curable; think about Hodgkin's Disease or testicular cancer or the value of Herceptin for women with her2 positive breast cancers. The truth remains, however, that when we hear a cancer diagnosis, most of us immediately worry that it is going to kill us. And our friends and family share that fear.

  A recent study from London found that 62% of people worried about getting cancer. Part of the worry, I think, is how powerless we feel in its' wake. We know that there are things we can do to promote overall good health and reduce the risk of heart disease or diabetes or strokes. Other than not smoking, there is really not all that much we can do about cancer.

  This study examined what people feared. Is it death or pain or being a burden or losing a job or high bills or losing our hair from chemotherapy? If we better understood those feelings, we could better cope with them.

Understanding cancer worries could break
down barriers to seeking help

RECOGNISING the reasons people worry about a potential cancer diagnosis could help ease concern and
encourage people with possible cancer symptoms to see their doctor earlier, according to research*
presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference.
Researchers based at University College London found that 62 per cent** of people in the UK*** worry about
their risk of getting cancer. But until now, little was known about what it is about cancer that worries them. So
the researchers asked over 2,000 people how worried they were about various aspects of cancer.
Their findings show that about two thirds worry about the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis and dying
from cancer. This was closely followed by worries about cancer treatments, which were shared by 50 per cent
of people. Worries about the social consequences of a cancer diagnosis were less pronounced, with only
about 25 per cent of people in the UK worrying about what a diagnosis of cancer would mean for their
important relationships.
The researchers also looked at which groups of the population were more worried. They found that women
and younger people were more likely to worry about cancer in general, while ethnic minorities in the UK were
more likely to specifically worry about the social consequences of a cancer diagnosis.

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