Anxiety is one of the most common emotional responses to cancer. It is a natural reaction. Questions like ‘How will I cope?’, ‘What is going to happen?’, ‘Will I get better?’ and ‘Will the treatment work?’, will probably go through your mind.
Anxious feelings may be present all of the time, or may come and go. They can also vary in how severe and disruptive they are. Anxiety may show itself as physical symptoms such as:
- breathing too fast
- tense muscles
- a dry mouth
- feeling sick
- chest pain or discomfort
- a ‘lump in the throat’
- pins and needles
- reddening of the face and neck (flushing).
It can be easy to confuse the symptoms of cancer, or cancer treatment, with the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety and the illness can act together to make the symptoms worse.
Dealing with anxiety
When anxiety levels are high, the symptoms can be difficult to control and may be experienced as a ‘panic attack’. Relaxation techniques can help you to get back in control. Take some slow deep breaths and concentrate on what is happening right at that moment, not what you worry may happen.
Your doctor will be able to help you to work out whether your symptoms are related to anxiety or the cancer itself.. Understanding the reason for your symptoms can be reassuring, but if you are still very anxious, counselling or psychotherapy can help. Medication can be prescribed if necessary.