Considering and Managing Anxiety, Part I

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JUNE 18, 2018

Anxiety Inevitably Accompanies Cancer

This is going to be a two part entry as anxiety is such a common and difficult companion to cancer. Honestly, I would worry about someone who denies ever feeling anxious or scared or worried. When we first hear the words: “I am so sorry, but the biopsy came back as cancer,” or something similar, most of us immediately assume this is a death sentence. Even if reassured about that, there is plenty to worry about!

Anxiety inevitably accompanies cancer. It is predictably intense right after diagnosis, when preparing for surgery or chemotherapy or radiation, when treatment ends, and if cancer recurs or progresses.  Anxiety is a normal response to these difficult circumstances, and can usually be managed without medical interventions.

How do you know if your anxiety falls in the “unpleasant but normal” range or whether medication would be helpful? If any of the following describe your situation, you should speak with your doctor about the possibility of medication. There is no shame in this. It is not evidence of being weak-willed or short of character. It actually is quite the opposite, and takes self-awareness, honesty and some courage to tell your doctor that you are struggling. There are a number of possible meds that will almost certainly improve your quality of life and enable you to manage these stressful months more easily. Consider this option if:

  • You are unable to sustain your normal routines or obligations due to anxiety
  • You are unable to sleep through the night, and awaken in the dark to find your mind and heart racing
  • You often can’t control the worry
  • You are having panic attacks
  • You feel generally out of control of yourself and/or your life

Help can be quickly at hand. Just ask.

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