Cancer Doubts .com
  Information for patients researching their options

Learn about cancer and
Talk to your doctor with confidence

  Cancer information  

01 What is cancer?
02 Cancer symptoms and screening (how cancer is detected)
03 Causes of cancer
04 Can cancer be prevented?
05 Cancer Stages
(how long do patients live?)
06 Cancer treatment and therapy (how cancer is treated)
07 Types of doctors who treat cancer
08 Choosing a doctor (or getting a second opinion)
09 Preparing for Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy
10 Cancer support (patient psychology and feelings)
11 Cancer suport - How friends can help
12 Is it important to do my own research? (or do I just follow doctor's orders)
13 Cancer information (research your treatment options)
14 Alternative and complementary treatments for cancer
15 Avoiding dubious treatments
16 How medical research is done (how to read medical research papers)
A About this site

Psychology of the patient and loved ones

Discovering that you have cancer is a traumatic event. All of a sudden, you are faced with your own mortality and an uncertain future. If one has young children or other dependents, the thought of cancer can be hard to bear. One's spouse faces equally wrenching emotions, having to deal with the thought of losing a life partner. Spouses can suffer emotionally just as much as the patient. It can also be emotionally difficult for loved ones to handle, and sometimes loved ones can shirk away because they don't know how to respond or how to talk to the patient about cancer. I believe that loved ones should try to avoid doing this - the easiest and most useful thing they can do is to just lend a listening ear to the patient, and spend time with the patient. The companionship counts for a lot, especially because cancer patients can feel that they are on a difficult and lonely journey.

It has been my experience that a cancer patient goes through the same emotional states that people undergo when faced with traumatic events and grief. Namely, the patient progresses from Denial, to Anger, to Bargaining, to Depression, then to Acceptance. (This is also known as the Kubler-Ross model of dealing with grief)

In the first Denial stage, the patient wonders if the cancer is really as bad as it sounds. He or she knows the seriousness of the situation at the back the mind, but the conscious mind entertains the thought that the problem might not be as serious as it sounds. The patient may think of cancer like: "this is like a chronic disease like high blood pressure, I just need to take medicine and pills and treat it like high blood pressure."

This is followed by Anger, and the patient wonders "out of thousands of people, why me?" and may wonder why the cancer wasn't detected sooner. He or she may look back and wonder if there was anything that could have been done to prevent the cancer from happening.

In the Bargaining stage, the patient tries to deal with the situation with thoughts like "just let me live for another 6 months" or "isn't there some other medicine that can give me more time? or can't the doctor do more?"

In the Depression stage, the patient may descend into a feeling of hopelessness.

In the final Acceptance stage, the patient comes to accept his or her cancer, and starts to deal with it rationally.


It's useful to know that patients may go through these emotional states, otherwise the behavior can appear erratic and irrational. You should also be aware that patients can behave in out-of-character ways when they undergo chemotherapy:

- Chemotherapy can be very painful and leave the patient weak and unable to carry out normal everyday activities like drive or cook. The patient can become frustrated at his or her inability to function normally, and lash out at caregivers who spend a lot of time with them. Caregivers and spouses may bear the brunt of the patient's outbursts.

- Chemotherapy may also the brain's chemistry, resulting in a condition colloquially known as "chemo brain". Patients can become forgetful or think slowly, making them appear uncooperative. Just remember that it's not the person you love talking, it's the chemicals.

Shakespeare - 7 Ages of Man

Image: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

How people relate to the patient
The patient's deteriorating physical state, particularly if prolonged, and also cause family and friends to relate differently to the patient. This can make the patient feel more and more isolated as he/she wonders why the people around him/her appear to be treating them differently. An active, independent adult with terminal cancer can gradually become incapacitated, much like healthy people do as they grow older. The only difference being that the patient goes through the decline at an accelerated pace.

Shakespeare observed, as shown in his play "As You Like It", that people relate to people differently as they grow old. He observed that people go through "the seven ages of man" as they progress from infancy to old age. From objects of affection in childhood, to respected authorities at middle age, to becoming the butt of jokes as they go into old age when their physical and mental faculties deteriorate. Finally they are pitied and (possibly resented) as they become dependent on caregivers as they approach death.

Patients with prolonged terminal cancer can descend through all the stages, with their friends and family treating them differently as they go through each stage. Friends and acquaintances who once looked up to him/her may start pitying him/her, and even ignore him/her entirely. The patient does not have the benefit of the gradual adaptation that regular aging allows, may not understand what is happening. This can cause them to become moody and demanding, as they try to reassert the respect and independence they once had.



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Medical information for cancer I am not a medical professional; please consult your doctor for a medical opinion. This is my attempt to explain cancer to anyone who is affected by it. If this site helps just one person, then it will have served its purpose.


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