Targeted Therapy

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Emotions and targeted therapy treatment

What emotional effects can I expect?

Cancer and its treatment can bring major changes to your life. It can affect your overall health, threaten your sense of well-being, disrupt your daily routines, and put a strain on your relationships. It’s normal and understandable for you and your family to feel sad, anxious, angry, depressed, and other feelings, such as:

  • Guilt and worry over changes in your role and the roles of others in the family
  • Fears about the outcome of treatment and the possibility of a shorter life
  • Tiredness and lower energy levels
  • Anxiety about the family, job, or money

There are ways to cope with these emotional effects, just as there are ways to cope with the physical ones.

Finding support

You can draw support from many sources. Here are some of the most important ones:

Counseling and mental health professionals

Counselors can help you express, understand, and cope with the emotions caused by cancer and cancer treatment. Depending on what you want and need, you might want to talk with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, member of the clergy, or mental health therapist.

Friends and family

Talking with friends or family members may help you feel a lot better. Often, they can comfort and reassure you in ways that no one else can. But you may find that you have to make the first move. Many people do not understand cancer and may withdraw from you because they’re afraid of your illness. Others may worry that they will upset you by saying the wrong thing.

You can help relieve others’ fears by talking openly with them about your illness, your treatment, your needs, and your feelings. You can correct mistaken ideas and let people know that there’s no one “right” thing to say. Once people know they can talk with you honestly, they may be more willing and able to open up.

Support groups

Support groups are made up of people who are going through the same kinds of experiences you are. Many people with cancer find they can share thoughts and feelings with group members more easily than with anyone else. Support groups can also be an important source of practical information about living with cancer.

You can also find support in one-to-one programs that match you with a person like you in age, gender, type of cancer, and so forth. You might talk with this person on the phone or arrange visits.

Where to find information about support programs:

Coping tips for everyday life

  • Try to keep your treatment goals in mind. This can help you keep going on days when it gets rough.
  • Eat well. Your body needs food to rebuild tissues and regain strength.
  • Learn as much as you want to know about your disease and its treatment. This can lessen your fear of the unknown and increase your feeling of control.
  • Exercise if you can and if your doctor says it’s OK. Using your body can help you fight fatigue, build your appetite, and make you feel better about yourself.
  • Keep a journal or diary while you’re being treated. Recording your activities and thoughts can help you understand the feelings you have as you go through treatment. It may also help highlight questions you need to ask your doctor or nurse. You can use your journal to record side effects. This will help you when you talk about them with your doctor and nurse. Write down the steps you take to cope with side effects and how well those steps work, too. That way, you’ll know what worked best for you in case you have the same side effects again.
  • Try new hobbies or go back to one you loved before. Learn new skills.
  • Take it easy. You may not have as much energy as usual, so try to get as much rest as you can. Let the small stuff slide and only do the things that are most important to you. Get help from friends, neighbors, and family when your energy is low.

Doctors and nurses

If you or your family has questions or worries about your cancer treatment and its effects, talk with members of your health care team. If they are unable to give you the help you need, they can refer you to other health professionals who can help you. If you need emotional support, they may be able to refer you to local counselors, groups, or networks where you can find support.

Cancer treatment is easier if you get help

No one can do this alone. Even though it can be hard to talk about some things that happen during treatment, don’t hesitate to ask for the help you need. Always ask your doctor or nurse any questions you have about your treatment—even questions about things that may seem awkward, like sex or cost. Some people don’t want to mention that the medicines prescribed to control side effects aren’t working, or that they’re having trouble with parts of the treatment plan. You can always start by saying, “This is a hard question for me to ask,” or “I don’t know how to talk about this,” but then go ahead and bring it up anyway.

Open and honest talks between you, your family, and your cancer care team is the best way to understand what is happening to you, your body, and the cancer. You can also learn more about how cancer affects you and your family in the “To learn more” section under “Living with cancer.”


Last Medical Review: 07/12/2013
Last Revised: 07/12/2013