Cancer and Emotional Health: When to Call the Doctor

Cancer is a life-changing experience, and for some patients, it could be the most difficult time in their lives. This is true of all cancers, and especially true of terminal illnesses such as mesothelioma, for which there is no cure. Changes in family roles, loss of control, changes in appearance, fear of pain (and pain itself), and fear of death are all common triggers for emotional responses from patients and from their family members.

In many cases, patients present physical reactions to fear, anxiety, or other extreme emotions. This may include sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest, and these are all normal reactions. However, it’s important for patients and their families to be aware of physical changes that may not only be responses to extreme emotions, but may also be signals of serious medical issues. If you or a loved one experiences the symptoms below, you need to call a doctor right away:

  • Speaks of or has thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Is unable to sleep
  • Is unable to eat
  • Shows a prolonged lack of interest in usual activities (for a number of days)
  • Experiences extreme emotions that last for a number of days
  • Experiences emotions that regularly interfere with daily activities
  • Shows confusion
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Experiences prolonged sweating
  • Is extremely restless
  • Displays new or unusual symptoms

It’s important to remember that no cancer patient or family member needs to suffer through this emotional experience alone. Doctors and medical professionals aren’t just concerned with physical health: they also care about the emotional health of a patient and his or her family members or caregivers. If you are having trouble dealing with the emotional side effects of cancer, speak with your doctor or another member of your treatment team—they can recommend the appropriate resources so that you can get the help you need to stay strong.