increased risk of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress

Paying close attention to the mental health of cancer patients is essential because the news of the presence of cancer in their bodies, the treatments and the symptoms could trigger a mental problem.

Pay close attention to the mental health of cancer patients is essential because the news of the presence of cancer in their bodies, the treatments used to counteract the symptoms, among many other factors could trigger depression, anxiety and in some cases, stress post-traumatic

The Journal of Medicine and Public Health (MSP) consulted with Dr. Eida Castro Figueroa, clinical psychologist and associate professor of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry of the Ponce School of Medicine (Ponce Health Sciences University), who explained the incidence of cancer at different stages of cancer.

Mental health before diagnosis

Cancer could manifest itself through various physical symptoms that could alert the patient to this condition. At this time, according to the psychologist Castro, uncertainty, fear and anguish could be evident.

“When there is suspicion before diagnosis, uncertainty, fear and uncertainty abound. anxiety because a disease may be occurring that is affecting not only health, but also life. So there is a lot of fear, uncertainty, anxiety. Sometimes there are people who before the diagnosis may avoid going to the doctor for fear of being given a fatal diagnosis such as cancer. (…) It can generate anger against oneself because perhaps he did not take care of himself as he should have taken care of himself. There may be an existential courage or a spiritual thing, for example: ‘I have done so many good things, I have been a spiritual person and yet, because I receive the punishment’. Many times the diagnosis of cancer can also be seen as a punishment”, explained the psychologist Castro.

Mental health when they already have the diagnosis

Once the patient diagnosed with cancer knows what disease he is facing, the possible treatment that could save his life and the obstacles he will face, he could feel calm. However, there are cases in which other effects could occur.

“When the patient knows his diagnosis, his prognosis, what is in store for him in terms of results with that treatment, he can have a little peace of mind and establish trust. Mental symptoms decrease a little, we call these symptoms of emotional distress. emotional distress either depression, anxiety, anger, sadness, all these emotions are normal that occur within this process. when we call it depression, anxiety or any other type of clinical name we are talking about patients whose symptoms are already evolving and require clinical attention. When they learn about their diagnosis and treatment, they can lessen symptoms of distress that manifest as depression And fear. Cancer treatments generate secondary symptoms: hair loss, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, tiredness, neuropathy that inflames nerve endings. That causes pain, these symptoms again cause anguish in patients and on many occasionss When the patient did not fully understand their treatment process and symptoms, they may interpret the cancer as progressing. So again this again causes emotional distress in patients”elaborated Dr.

Mental health at the end of treatment

As has already been shown, emotions change in a cancer patient depending on the phase of the disease in which they are. When the patient who survives cancer, overcomes the disease and their treatment has paid off, the survival phase arrives, which could have a significant impact on their psychological health.

“We are talking about patients who no longer have evidence of cancer, they go to an observation period in which they continue their medical appointments to see that there is no cancer in another part of the body and there the fear of recurrence may arise. Whenever people feel any physical symptoms, they can relate it to cancer, that the cancer is coming back, or that there is a recurrence. Every time the date of a medical check-up approaches, people are once again very afraid and very anxiety how those medical exams are going to turn out. There are many patients who, due to treatments, may continue with physical symptoms related to the same treatment: fatigue, tiredness, neuropathy, and these symptoms affect their daily functioning. If they are people who are looking to return to the work environment, then their work emotion could affect them there. So this creates another situation of stress and of an emotional impact that will affect their quality of life”, mentioned the psychologist.

Mental Health When Cancer Treatment Failed

When a cancer patient fails to overcome his disease, serious mental, psychological and emotional effects could occur because the outcome is fatal. Dr. Castro explained:

“In the final stage of life there are people who may have advanced cancer and have lived 7, 8, 9 to 10 years with cancer. They are people who are given treatment to extend life, but there comes a time when the treatment is no longer enough. There they go to the end-of-life stage and obviously when they go to the end-of-life stage we are talking about fear of death, anguish about what is going to happen to my relatives.. Many of them have that concern. Existential question: after I leave this world, what will happen? These are other situations that can generate emotional anguish that could then be framed in clinical symptoms, of some disorder of mental health What depression, anxiety and syndrome stress post-traumatic”, warned the psychologist.


Dr. Castro explained the phenomenon of the conspiracy of silence that occurs with great frequency in the lives of patients facing the diagnosis of a chronic pathology such as cancer.

There is a phenomenon called in psychology the conspiracy of silence. This is when the patient or family member tries to hide how he feels and that he is distressed because he does not want to worry the family member. On the other hand, the relative also hides her feelings from the patient because he does not want to worry him. Then both are distressed and that distress can evolve into a disorder of mental health and neither of them wants perhaps to reveal it or at least to each other or to be aware of it out of concern. What will generate in a ticking time bomb. (…) I recommend that at the time they need help, that the one who can touch it, that they can then trust the staff of mental health for us to help you in the process. Now there is something called the stigma towards the services of mental health and this was also challenged in this population. (…) There is another term that we also harbor in excess, positivism, that when then, despite the fact that I feel bad and I don’t want to say it, maybe I pretend that I’m fine so that others don’t see that I’m allowing myself to be defeated, that prevents others from caregivers seek emotional help. concluded psychologist Castro in dialogue with MSP.

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