Living with cancer can take as much of a toll on one’s mental health as it does their physical health, according to many of the roughly 1.6 million people diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. There are many reasons why this is the case. For some people, a cancer diagnosis means coming face to face with their mortality. Even though there have been significant breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating many cancers, some continue to be a death sentence. To put this into perspective, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 600,000 people in the U.S. die from cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of death nationwide.
Of course, a terminal cancer diagnosis isn’t the only thing that shakes people up mentally; even battling cancer with a high survival rate can sometimes be enough to open the depression floodgates for some. According to a study published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 15 to 25% of people become chronically depressed after receiving a cancer diagnosis. However, it doesn’t end there. The study found that the same depression felt by individuals dealing with cancer also impacted the lives of their loved ones. The long and short of it is battling and coping with cancer is not easy on the mind, body, or spirit.
The Reality of Coping With a Cancer Diagnosis
There are five stages of cancer, and they can each influence how individuals feel about themselves insofar as giving them hope or causing them to feel hopeless. Across the more than 100 cancers known to attack the body, these five stages, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include the following:
- Stage I: Cancer is present in only a small area and hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or other tissues.
- Stage II: Cancer has grown in size but hasn’t spread anywhere else in the body.
- Stage III: Cancer has grown in size and has invaded lymph nodes or other tissues in the body.
- Stage IV: Cancer has metastasized to other organs or parts of the body.
Most people battling cancer typically report feeling hopeful if the disease is in its early stage but less so if they know their cancer is late-stage. Many people fall into severe anxiety and depression upon finding out they have stage III or stage IV cancer. In some cases, individuals might even lose the will to keep up with their cancer treatments or fall victim to suicidal ideations. Yes, even when dealing with cancer, a sometimes treatable if not outright curable disease, some people think about ending it all once things become too much for them to bear.
How to Cope With Cancer: Diagnosis, Treatments, and Beyond
You should know that you’re not alone, no matter where you are in your cancer journey. Family and friends can often be remarkably supportive once you tell them you need help coping with cancer. Of course, if you don’t have friends and family to lean on during this challenging time in your life, there are patient resources you can access if you have questions or concerns concerning any of the following:
- Managing the financial burden of coping with cancer
- Overcoming feelings of depression
- Breakthrough treatments, including immunotherapies
Best Cancer Care Community Programs for Individuals Needing Help Coping With a Cancer Diagnosis
Knowing that help is out there if you need it is one thing, but knowing where to go and what programs are worth your time is another matter entirely. To that end, some of the best cancer care community programs for individuals needing help coping with a cancer diagnosis include the following:
- The American Cancer Society
- The Association of American Cancer Institutes
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
These organizations serve as valuable patient resources for those curious about cancer treatments and the cost of those treatments. They also have information about clinical trials and immunotherapy drugs to help send cancer into remission. Many of these same organizations proudly offer support to individuals suffering from depression and other mental health problems due to being diagnosed with cancer.
Weathering the Financial Storm Following a Diagnosis of Cancer
Even with health insurance, the cost of treating cancer can be more than some people can afford. According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, cancer patients in the U.S. paid an astonishing $5.6 billion out of pocket for cancer treatments in 2018. If you’re faced with expensive cancer treatments and need more help than your health insurance policy offers, you have several options.
Various organizations make it easier for those in-network physicians to provide exceptional cancer treatments to patients at a much lower cost, regarding out-of-pocket fees and billable charges invoiced to health insurance providers. Other organizations that go to extraordinary lengths to help ease the financial burden for individuals adjusting to life with cancer include:
- Hill-Burton Free and Reduced-Cost Health Care
- The Social Security Administration
- The Ronald McDonald House
- Triage Cancer
How to Cope With Cancer
Whether you’re struggling with mental health problems, physical pain, or financial struggles associated with cancer, you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you need emotional or financial support, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Likewise, don’t hesitate to reach out to the many government and private organizations across the U.S. that want nothing more than to help people beat cancer and continue to live a long and meaningful life.