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Managing fear, anxiety and panic

Get advice on how to manage fear, anxiety and panic when having cancer and who can help.

Reducing anxiety

Most people with cancer won’t feel anxious all the time. You may just have short episodes of feeling very anxious. For example, when you are due to have treatment or when you think about going to the hospital. Or after treatment, when you go to the hospital for a check up. 

Finding ways of dealing with your anxieties

It helps to find your own way of dealing with your anxieties. You may want to try:

  • taking a friend or relative along to support you during treatment
  • getting reassurance from your nurses and doctors
  • using relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or visualisation before and during a stressful situation
  • having a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment once a week
  • doing some form of regular exercise that you enjoy

Talking to your doctors and nurses

If your anxiety is constantly affecting your day to day life and you feel in a permanent state of worry and panic, you may need some professional help.

Try to let your doctors and nurses know how you are really feeling. They will be very sensitive about it and encourage you to tell them about your anxiety.

Getting treatment for your anxiety

Your doctors and nurses are there to help and will want to make things as easy as possible for you.

Your doctors and nurses may suggest that you get some help from people trained to help you deal with anxiety and panic problems. For example:

  • a psychologist
  • a psychotherapist
  • a counsellor

Help from experts

You might worry that these experts only treat people who are mentally ill or under severe stress. Or that it means that you’re weak. But this is not true. Agreeing to see a professional shows that you are strong enough to ask for help.

Many people have counselling and psychotherapy to help them get over day to day emotional or behavioural difficulties. This can include:

  • depression
  • phobias
  • shyness
  • panic attacks and severe anxiety
  • eating and sleeping disorders

Seeing an expert is not guaranteed to work for everyone but it can be a very effective way of treating these conditions.

There are several types of therapy that may help you overcome anxiety and panic. For example:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • interpersonal therapy

Help for severe anxiety and panic attacks

If you are having very severe anxiety problems and panic attacks your doctor may prescribe anti anxiety tablets as part of your treatment.

These are not the same as anti depressants. You will probably only take them for a short time. Anti anxiety tablets are not a long term solution because they will not solve the underlying problem causing your anxiety.

These medicines work by helping you feel calmer and more able to cope. So it gives you the space to try to understand and overcome your fears and anxieties.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.