Anxiety is an emotion that can be characterised by feelings of tension, worry or stress associated with the perception of a threat or danger to our wellbeing. Therefore, anxiety can be considered one of the most dominant psychological challenges for cancer patients as this new reality can be very overwhelming. Anxiety in patients can be experienced at different points in time: before initial diagnosis (e.g. pre-screening, waiting for results) after initial diagnosis (e.g. getting results, telling family and friends, treatment plan, financial adjustments), during treatment (e.g. worried about side effects, imagining the worst) and after treatment (e.g. worried about possible reoccurrence, uncertainty about follow-ups). 

Anxiety can show up in different ways, either physically or psychologically. Some typical physical symptoms include, shivering, tremors, fatigue, nausea, headaches, sweating, trouble falling asleep and irritability. Typical psychological symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, unrealistic view of problems and panic attacks. Feelings similar to grief may also be experienced: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and depression.

The effect of anxiety on Cancer patients can be significantly debilitating and can interfere with a person’s quality of life. Therefore, finding ways to manage stressors associated with diagnosis, illness, and treatment is recommended. To reduce anxiety, the patient can engage in:  

  1. Relaxation, visualization and mindfulness activities. This reduces stress and tension, relaxes the mind and body. 
  2. One-on-one counselling provides an avenue to explore feelings and thoughts, making them easier to understand. 
  3. Breast Cancer Support Groups. 
  4. Physical activity and improved diet-regular exercise can help clear the mind and reduce stress. 
  5. Spirituality can provide support when facing their own mortality. 
  6. Taking care of pets as can provide routine, exercise and emotional comfort. 


Baqutayan SM. (April 2012). The effect of anxiety on breast cancer patients. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Apr;34(2):119-23. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.101774. PMID: 23162185; PMCID: PMC3498772. 

National Cancer Institute. (April 30, 2020). Helping Cancer Survivors Cope with Cancer-Related Anxiety and Distress. 

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