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Understanding the Emotional Impact of Cancer Survivorship

April 20, 2023

Life After Cancer: How Does Cancer Impact Your Emotions?


Most people expect to feel joy and relief once they finally hear, “You’re in remission.” However, when cancer patients get into remission, they might discover that things aren’t as simple as they assumed. Understanding the complex relationship between cancer and emotions will help you better prepare for the future.


Is It Normal for Life After Cancer to Be More Emotional?


The most important thing cancer survivors need to know is that they aren’t going through this alone. Research shows that 11% to 28% of cancer survivors experience heightened emotional challenges after they go into remission. Cancer and emotions are closely connected, so it’s perfectly normal to feel extremely emotional long after you’ve recovered.


Many worry that their emotions are unreasonable or abnormal, so they hesitate to discuss the matter. However, encouraging survivors to discuss how cancer has impacted them can make getting the care they need easier.


Types of Cancer Emotions People Experience After Surviving


For many people, cancer recovery is filled with a whirlwind of emotions. Many people deal with one or more of the following cancer emotions:




People who experience cancer are three times more likely to get depression even if they recover from cancer. This tends to happen because people are overwhelmed and exhausted after struggling with cancer for so long. Depression in cancer survivors can present itself in a variety of ways, including:

  • Boredom
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Losing interest in hobbies or loved ones
  • Unexplained sadness
  • Anger
  • Unexpected weight gain or loss


Cancer Survivors’ Guilt


Cancer is an extremely traumatic and dangerous situation. For many people, recovering ends up causing survivor’s guilt. People may wonder why they recovered when others with the same cancer didn’t. Survivors’ guilt can be particularly strong if you witnessed friends in cancer support groups or treatment centers pass away.




Many people feel very worried or fearful after they recover from cancer. There can be many underlying reasons for this anxiety, including:

  • Concerns cancer will come back
  • Stress about changes to health or appearance
  • Anxiety about other unexpected health emergencies
  • Feeling a lack of control in your life



Though many cancer patients assume they’ll feel happy after they go into remission, they can end up dealing with a lot of sadness and grief. This often happens because the patient is mourning their old life. Even though they’ve recovered, they’ve undergone significant changes, so they might feel grief over their losses.


Spiritual Questions


After dealing with a near-death experience, it is common for many patients to start thinking about religion or spirituality. Some may question their former religion, while others may get involved in a new religion. This can be a natural part of finding meaning and purpose in your post-cancer life.


How to Cope With Surviving Cancer and Your Emotions


If a patient’s well-being suffers from emotions like cancer survivors’ guilt, working with a therapist or psychologist is helpful. After such an intense and traumatic experience, mental healthcare can provide much relief.


It can also be useful to join cancer survivor groups. Getting support from people who understand your emotions and have experienced the same trauma as you is very reassuring.


There are a lot of other ways to provide support for cancer survivors, including:

  • Don’t dismiss long-term side effects. Recognizing ongoing health problems makes it easier for patients to recover.
  • Recognize that going into remission isn’t the same as being 100% cured. Most patients know how common it is for cancer to recur, so it’s understandable that they continue to feel scared or stressed.
  • Be compassionate about body image issues. After spending so long feeling like they aren’t in control of their body, many cancer patients find it hurtful to discuss things like weight or fitness.
  • Make sure to be there for cancer survivors. Dealing with cancer can often feel isolating, so having loved ones around is essential.
  • Provide a compassionate, non-judgemental outlet for cancer survivors to talk to. Many people just want someone to vent to, so they prefer their loved ones to listen and sympathize instead of trying to offer solutions.


Being emotional after cancer is common, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Being aware of potential challenges can help you take steps to address small issues before they become huge problems. Compassionate, thoughtful, emotional support makes life after cancer much more manageable.