What makes you afraid of cancer treatment

Fear of cancer - how to deal with it

Many people fear cancer. This is normal because it is a threatening disease. Good to know: Many types of cancer can be treated better and better. Research is advancing rapidly and new cancer therapies promise a cure. If the fear of getting sick is very pronounced, it can become a problem itself as a disease anxiety disorder (hypochondria). Basically, when dealing with fear, it can help to remind yourself that it is part of life and has important functions. Because fear is not only annoying, it also protects us from excessive demands and dangers.

When are people afraid of cancer?

Cancer is a life-threatening disease and we humans react with fear to threatening situations. First of all, fear is a completely normal reaction to the idea that one could have cancer. And it is not unfounded. Because the disease demands a lot from the people who are confronted with it. Cancer therapies can be physically stressful. The diagnosis is also usually a shocking challenge from a psychological point of view. It is important to endure experiences that often seem unbearable at first. It is not uncommon for relatives to stand helpless and worried next to their loved ones. Cancer is a crisis situation and a break in life and coexistence.

So it's no wonder when people listen to unknown pain or complaints and worry about whether they have a tumor. Maybe they blame themselves for smoking or for living too unhealthily.

It makes sense to have long-lasting symptoms clarified by a doctor. However, a visit to the doctor with examinations that could result in a cancer diagnosis also causes anxiety. The film begins in the “head cinema”: What if it really is cancer? Why did it get me? Can i be cured? These and similar questions may occupy people who are waiting for an examination result. That can be grueling. In addition, there may be existential fears and worries about how family or colleagues would react.

If it really is cancer, many feel like a fall from normal reality. Instead of a great trip, the next step in your career or bringing up children, medical treatments suddenly determine everyday life. Dealing with the fragility and finiteness of one's own being is almost inevitable.

People who have overcome tumor diseases often carry the fear of relapse (relapse) with them for life. Headache or a stinging sting in the stomach may create disproportionate fears.

Check-ups can also be a double-edged sword. If everything is in order, they provide security. But they may be troubling in advance and keep reminding you of cancer and the fear of it.

The fear of death

Death is not far when we talk about cancer, especially in the mind. In the majority of cases it is a life-threatening disease, and people with tumor diseases continue to die as a result. But significantly more people in Germany succumb to cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, the diagnoses of high blood pressure or atherosclerosis are not fraught with the same horror as, for example, lung cancer.

Of all diseases, cancer is the most feared. People across all age groups - including the young - are more afraid of cancer than death. That's what a poll by YouGov found in 2016. Seven out of ten respondents are afraid of developing cancer. About six in ten are afraid of Alzheimer's disease or a serious accident. Only a little more than half of the respondents are afraid of a heart attack.

Cancer touches upon most people's lives sooner or later. If you don't get sick yourself, it may be a close relative, a colleague or a neighbor. Again and again there are stories that end with death. Especially when people are younger and torn from the middle of life, these stories stick and frighten.

Cancer seems to affect the human primal fear of death more than many other situations. But maybe this is also an opportunity. Death is part of life. When we become aware of this, we may be able to appreciate life itself more.

Knowledge Against Fear: Cancer and Scientific Advances

To deal with the fear of cancer, it can be useful to read up on modern medicine. Many people do not have a clear idea of ​​what cancer therapy looks like today. The treatment options are constantly improving. Large congresses with tens of thousands of participants from all over the world take place every year. They exchange information about the results of their research, discuss the effectiveness of innovative drugs and define new treatment options. Cancer today no longer necessarily means chemotherapy. Treatment options are now so good that many people with cancer survive the disease.

Examinations for the early detection of cancer are also getting better and better (more on this can be found in our article "How can you prevent cancer?"). New methods make it possible to detect tumor diseases at an earlier stage so that they can be treated with a better chance of a cure.

Nevertheless, cancer remains a challenge for medicine and research. Because the longed-for universal healing is perhaps further away than ever before. Cancer is actually not one disease, it is many different. Any type of tissue can be affected by cancer and they all may require different treatments. Researchers are gradually understanding the various oncological diseases better and better and can counter them in a more targeted and therefore usually more effective manner.

Technological developments and digital information processing also play an important role. You have contributed to the deciphering of the human genome. It is now possible to produce active ingredients in molecular biology that target specific tumor cells. A whole range of drugs are currently on their way to everyday clinical practice. Under the umbrella term immunotherapies, they are pursuing a completely new approach and appear to be extremely promising. So far, however, they have only helped some of the people suffering from cancer.

When is fear of cancer an ailment in itself?

The fear of cancer can become excessive and lead, for example, to excessive visits to the doctor. Even if the doctor confirms that there is no illness, the person concerned does not calm down, or only reassures them very briefly. Media reports and cases of others becoming ill create disproportionate concern. Fear of illness plays a central role in life, thoughts and conversations revolve around it. The fear affects the quality of life and everyday life no longer works properly. The disease issue becomes a central part of identity.

Anxiety can also manifest itself in physical symptoms: palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, sleep disorders and pain are just a few of the possible complaints. Research has shown that one in five visits to the doctor fail to find an organic cause of physical symptoms. When unclear complaints are accompanied by an excessive fear of illness, experts speak of a somatic (physical) stress disorder.

There used to be the term hypochondria to describe fears of illness. People who suffered from this were called hypochondriacs. Experts now avoid these terms because they have negative connotations and arouse misconceptions.

The so-called "cyberchondria"

The so-called cyberchondria is a special form of fear of illness. It is an artificial word made up of “cyber” (computer-generated illusory world) and “hypochondria” (fear of illness). In cyberchondria, the fear of illness is primarily dealt with on the Internet. Doctor Google and countless other websites are consulted extensively and repeatedly.
The Internet offers many possibilities and opportunities to get information quickly and easily. But health information from the Internet in particular is not always reliable and can quickly be misinterpreted. Therefore, when doing health research on the Internet, you should always pay attention to the source of the information and how serious it is. You can recognize high-quality and quality-assured texts, for example, by the seals of the Health On the Net Foundation (HON) or the Health Information System Action Forum (afgis).

For example, the Cancer Information Service, the German Cancer Aid or the German Cancer Society with their national organizations offer detailed and reliable information on cancer.

How can the fear of cancer be overcome?

If the fear of cancer is constant and causes massive suffering because it severely restricts everyday life, you should seek support. Displacement is usually not a good way to go. It helps many people to exchange ideas with others and talk about problems. Often it is a relief to just say things out loud.

Realize that you are not alone. Be it family, friends or professional advice centers - help and support are available in a variety of ways. Imagine the opposite situation: someone asks you for help. Would you be willing to stand by others? Most people are happy to support others within their means. Self-help groups such as Deutsche Angsthilfe e. V. can be understanding contacts.

It is important: Fears should not have a lasting effect on your everyday life or prevent you from leading your life the way you actually want it. In the case of massive fear of illness, there are various therapeutic concepts that can provide relief and relief. It can be about recognizing old thought and feeling patterns and replacing them with new, more helpful ones. But perhaps there are also unprocessed experiences with a bad illness in the past or avoided topics and conflicts that are expressed in the fear of illness. Medicines can also help against anxiety disorders. The aim of the therapeutic procedure is to get the fear of illness under control and to conquer the anxiety disorder

Relaxation exercises such as B. Autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, dancing or yoga can help reduce internal tension and anxiety.

Psycho-oncological support can be helpful in countering the fear of cancer in the event of illness. Psycho-oncology is a special area of ​​medicine that specializes in the needs of people with cancer.

Talk to your family doctor if you would like help in dealing with anxiety. As your health insurance company, Barmer is also there for you if you have any questions about health.