Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Taking Risks After a Cancer Diagnosis

By Camille Noe Pagán
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD

If someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, you want to see him do everything he can to stay healthy and safe. So it can be confusing or upsetting if he does things that seem risky. But experts say unexpected behavior is a normal part of the way some people handle their diagnosis.

“Facing a life-threatening illness can shift your perspective, both in the short- and long-term,” says Jeremy Winell, MD. He's the director of cancer supportive services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Cancer Center in New York City. “Some changes in behavior and attitude are to be expected.”

Recommended Related to Cancer

What is Prevention?

Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. In 2014, about 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. In addition to the physical problems and emotional distress caused by cancer, the high costs of care are also a burden to patients, their families, and to the public. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer is lowered. Hopefully, this will reduce the burden of cancer and lower the number of deaths caused by cancer. Cancer...

Read the What is Prevention? article > >

Research shows that cancer survivors are more likely to make positive health changes than negative ones. But if your loved one is doing something that concerns you, try to put his behavior into perspective -- and learn when to take action.

One Person’s Risk Is Another Person’s Bucket List

Truly risky behavior -- like having unprotected sex, or driving 90 miles an hour -- is a rare reaction to cancer.

“In 30 years of practice, I can’t recall a time that a patient did something dangerous in response to their diagnosis,” says Stewart Fleishman, MD. He's a psychiatrist, palliative care specialist, and author of Learn to Live Through Cancer.

More often, experts say, a cancer diagnosis reminds people how short life is. They may feel the need to do things they always wanted to do but had been putting off, like driving a race car or going sky diving. Many survivors decide to change careers, and some even choose to end relationships with their significant others.

Should you worry? Winell says most of the time, there’s no need.

“Their loved ones may get concerned, and feel like the patient’s having a personality change, when in fact they’re doing something normal and not necessarily unhealthy,” he says.

Addictive Behaviors Are Hard to Shake

Some people will turn to unhealthy ways to deal with their diagnosis, though, especially if that’s how they tend to handle anxiety. Cancer can be extremely stressful, after all.

“That’s why it can be hard to give up so-called risky behaviors that people use to cope with stress, like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, doing drugs, or even overeating in the middle of treatment,” says Diane Robinson, PhD. She’s a neuropsychologist and director of the cancer support community at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center-Orlando Health.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article