Dealing with cancer treatment stress

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is an extremely stressful experience. Not only do you have to cope with the fear and anxiety of having a possibly life-threatening condition, but you have to begin right away dealing with treatment options, financial concerns and logistics.

“When you’re in the doctor’s office, it’s very overwhelming,” said Patricia Ramirez, a breast cancer nurse navigator at OSF HealthCare. “It’s easy to miss hearing about the first step of treatment or your staging information after hearing the news of your diagnosis.”

Seemingly all at once, a cancer patient has to deal with anxiety, their own heavy emotions, as well as those of friends and family, insurance coverage questions, scheduling treatments and securing transportation back and forth.

In addition, a tidal wave of important medical information floods your brain.

It all adds up to information overload and a huge amount of stress.

Stress management for cancer patients

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One important thing you can do as a cancer patient to manage stress, or even reduce stress, is to rely on people closest to you for help.

“It is very common to have information overload,” said Erin Mclaughlin, an oncology nurse navigator for OSF HealthCare. “Have a friend or family member with you at least for your early appointments. You won’t understand or remember everything – that’s totally normal. So get printed handouts, if you can, or have your friend or family member take notes for you.”

Having that second set of ears with you can prove vital, according to Patricia Ramirez.

“We always say we would like them to have a second set of ears with them,” she said. “A second set of ears who can ask questions you have not thought of or were too overwhelmed to think of.”

Another tip is to ask questions. Don’t be shy. Your care team is there to answer all of your questions. You can even schedule another appointment if you realize later that you have questions you forgot to ask initially.

Keeping and organizing medical information

Another useful practice that can help you reduce stress and even help your care providers is to keep copies of all your paperwork and records.

Fighting cancer often requires the services of more than one type of specialist, and they may all be working at different facilities and for different organizations and serving different purposes in your treatment.

Keeping your records organized for them can help answer any questions they may have about your course of treatment up to that point and anything else they may need to know to do their job of giving you the best care they can.

This approach certainly beats trying to remember all the details of your cancer journey and trying to recount them accurately when asked.

Nurse navigators: your cancer treatment organizer

Nurse navigators serve as advocates for cancer patients and families throughout the cancer journey. They know how to navigate the processes and challenges that cancer patients encounter. And they make it their priority to be there for support every step of the way.

Patricia reaches out to patients to help them understand what to expect even before their first appointment with their oncologist.

Having a compassionate expert dedicated to answering every question and navigating every step of the journey is an invaluable resource. Nurse navigators can help you schedule appointments and even give you tips on how to organize cancer paperwork. They’ve seen it all.

Last Updated: October 17, 2022