Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Emotional Reactions to a Diagnosis of Cancer - Topic Overview

The impact of a diagnosis of cancer differs from person to person. It is normal to experience anger, frustration, or disappointment. The following home treatment may help you with your emotional reaction to a diagnosis of cancer:

  • Get enough rest and sleep. During sleep, your mind makes sense of what has happened to you. Adequate rest and sleep can help prevent physical illness and exhaustion. Many times simple home treatment can relieve your sleep problems. Try activities to help you relax, such as meditation or guided imagery. Do not use nonprescription medicines, alcohol, or street drugs. Talk to your health professional if you are having difficulty sleeping.
  • Eat well. Resist the urge not to eat or to eat only those foods that comfort you. If you have trouble eating alone, ask another person to join you for a snack or meal. If you do not have an appetite, eat frequent small meals and snacks.
  • Exercise. If nothing else, take a walk. Brisk walking and other forms of exercise, such as yoga or tai chi and qi gong, can help release some of your pent-up emotions. One study showed that regular exercise can improve a woman's chances of survival from breast cancer.1
  • Comfort yourself. Allow yourself the opportunity to be comforted by familiar surroundings and personal items that you value. Special items, such as photos or a loved one's favorite shirt, may also give you comfort. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, such as a massage.
  • Maintain your normal activities. Stay involved in activities that include your support network, such as your family and friends, work, church, or community activities.
  • Get the support you need. There are many different types of support programs, including individual or group counseling and support groups. Some groups are formal and focus on learning about cancer or dealing with feelings. Others are informal and social. All types of support help you explore your feelings and develop coping skills. Studies have found that people who take part in support groups have an improved quality of life, get better quality sleep, and feel like eating. Contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to help you find a support group. Talking with other people who may have had similar feelings can be very helpful.

To help you cope with your diagnosis and treatment:

Recommended Related to Cancer

Treatment of Hepatoblastoma

Treatment Options for Stages I and II Hepatoblastoma of pure fetal histology: For tumors of pure fetal histology, complete surgical resection followed by watchful waiting or single-agent doxorubicin.[1]In the Children's Oncology Group (COG) study COG-P9645, stage I pure fetal histology hepatoblastomas with two or fewer mitoses per 10 high power fields were not treated with chemotherapy. Completely excised tumor of purely fetal and favorable histology may be carefully followed without...

Read the Treatment of Hepatoblastoma article > >

  • Avoid quick fixes. Resist the urge to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or take nonprescription medicines or street drugs. When you are under emotional stress, these may only add to your unpleasant feelings and experiences and may mask your emotions and prevent you from normal, necessary grieving.
  • Ask for help. During times of emotional distress it is important to allow other people to take over some of your responsibilities. Other people often feel the need to show you how much they care about you.
  • Surround yourself with loved ones. You may feel lonely and separate from other people when you are grieving. You may think that no one else can understand the depth of your feelings. Surrounding yourself with people that you love and talking about your feelings and concerns may help you feel less lonely and more connected with others.
  • Talk about your feelings. Discuss your concerns with your family and friends or your doctor or nurse.

For more information, read "Talking Time: Support for People With Cancer" from the National Cancer Institute. You can find this booklet online at


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 31, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Emotional Reactions to a Diagnosis of Cancer Topics

Today on WebMD

Building a Support System
cancer fighting foods
precancerous lesions slideshow
quit smoking tips
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas