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Cancer and your Mental Health

February 4th was World Cancer Day. We posted about cancer and mental health on our social media pages, and had so many reactions both from people who have cancer, and from their loved ones.

Mental health is an often-overlooked aspect of the cancer journey. Cancer not only affects the body but takes a huge toll on the mind. Our social media posts provided some advice on how to address the emotional challenges that come with the fight against this disease:

Share your emotions: The first of these tips would be to open up to friends and family about how you are feeling. You might have a feeling of loss, and find focusing and concentrating difficult. You might feel tearful, angry, frightened, and feel out of control. These are all normal responses. They vary in intensity from person to person. Sharing these emotions with people close to you can help them to support you better.

Professional guidance: Cancer, depression and anxiety have shared symptoms such as fatigue, lack of sleep, and decreased appetite which can make recognising mental health conditions difficult. Your cancer team might not pick up on them, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek support from mental health professionals. They can offer valuable strategies for coping with the emotional aspects of your journey.

Connect through Cancer Support Groups: Engage with others who understand your experience. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) has centres in many locations which offer support. Check out our Mental Health Services map: https://mentalhealthmap.masiviwe.org.za/

Raise Awareness: Educate others about the mental health challenges tied to cancer. Advocate for comprehensive care that addresses emotional well-being. Some studies have shown that people who got help with their mental health and had fewer symptoms of depression, had longer average survival times than those who had more symptoms.  

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