Finding out you are at a high risk of developing cancer can be overwhelming. It is natural to feel anxious, down, scared and alone. It is when these feelings start to interrupt your everyday life you need to seek help. There is one very important thing to remember when faced with being high risk; you are not alone and there is support available.
Living with an Increased Cancer Risk
For many people living at increased cancer risk does not cause significant mental health problems. However, it is natural for people to ask “How will I cope?” when they are faced with a new and stressful situation.
Often for people at high risk of cancer, the issue of having little control or certainty about what the future holds can underpin how they feel. Common feelings resulting from uncertainty result in people feeling stressed, scared, anxious, worried or concerned.
Most people who are at high risk of cancer have successfully navigated difficult events or situations in their life prior to learning they are at high risk of cancer. These past events or situations may have been completely unrelated to the history of cancer. Nonetheless, often the strategies people use to cope are useful to them, even when the situation or event is different.
Therefore, it can be helpful to remind yourself how resilient you are and what things have been helpful to you in times of stress before.
Maintaining Good Emotional Health
Maintaining good emotional health is good for everyone and is about keeping well but also practicing the things that help you deal with stressful situations. Doing this not only keeps you well but means when you are faced with something stressful, you may employ these strategies without having to even think about it.
Ways to maintain good emotional health:
- Get enough rest
- Eat Well
- Don’t let it simmer
- Talk it out
- Learn techniques such as mindfulness or meditation
What if I am worried about my mental health?
For some people, worries or fears associated with living at increased cancer risk can contribute to a mental health concern. For some, the issues are complex and there may be several factors that are contributing to the problem. For example, a personal or family history of mental illness; multiple stressors piling up at once; or lack of supports may all be reasons for someone to seek more help. Feeling this way is not a reflection on how strong or resilient you are, sometimes there are just many things that happen at once or our usual strategies just aren’t working as well as they may have in the past.
If you are concerned about your mental health it is wise to seek an assessment and advice from a health professional and as early as possible. This might be speaking to your GP in the first instance and then with a qualified mental health professional. There are Medicare rebates for allied health, psychology and psychiatry services in Australia.
It is important to know that there are many good and evidenced based treatments available and that many do not involve taking medications. So you are concerned about your mental health, arrange an appointment to speak to someone.
- Pink Hope peer support programs see the Pink Hope website www.pinkhope.org.au
- Cancer Council Victoria Helpline 13 11 20 there are trained nurses who can discuss ways to link you in with medical experts over the phone.
- Beyond Blue 1300224636 www.beyondblue.org.au/
- Lifeline 131114 www.lifeline.org.au/
- Australian Psychological Society www.psychology.org.au/