Approximately half of all cancer patients and survivors suffer from poor mental health. Specifically, depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorders plague people with advanced or terminal cancer. While cancer treatment has improved significantly over the past decade and due to all these advancement in medical science it is not surprising to see many cancer survivors returning back to normal life especially in the west, yet mental health treatment has not been fully integrated into the treatment of cancer patients. Considering severe mental illnesses a cancer patient may have besides fighting against this dreadful disease, we can be more cautious and not add any further agony to a cancer patient/survivor while dealing with him/her.
When someone you know has cancer
What you SHOULD NOT DO:
Avoid talking about the illness–or talk about it constantly. The person might enjoy conversations that don’t involve cancer.
· Comment on changes in the person’s appearance, such as weight loss, which may make her self- conscious.
· Offer advice the person hasn’t asked for.
· Be afraid to hug or touch the person if doing so was part of your relationship before the illness.
· Say, “I can imagine how you must feel.” In reality, you can’t.
Above steps indeed help patient feel part of the same society/family in which he/she has been living before being victimized by this dreadful disease and this way patient/survivor does not feel alienated because of his/her disease.
And what instead you SHOULD DO:
Listen without feeling compelled to respond. Sometimes a caring listener is what the person needs most.
· Be open with your feelings, such as by saying, “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.
· Some people do not like talking about their illness while some others do. Therefore take your cues from the person with cancer and respect his/her need to share–or for privacy.
· Respect his/her decisions about treatment, even if you disagree.
· Offer to help in concrete, specific ways if you can or else just advising someone who is already so stressed out actually is more painful for him/her.