Anxiety is a normal reaction to cancer. It may increase feelings of pain, interfere with sleep, cause nausea and interfere with the quality of life of the patient and family. Most patients who have not had an anxiety condition before their cancer diagnosis will not develop an anxiety disorder associated with their cancer.
It may be difficult to distinguish between normal fears associated with cancer and abnormally severe fears that can be classified as an anxiety disorder. Signs of severe fear may include panic attacks that involve a variety of distressing symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, nausea, or feeling faint. Other signs of severe fear may also involve excessive avoidance of certain situations, muscle tension, intrusive thoughts and excessive rumination, recurrent nightmares, memory problems, and difficulty sleeping.
Treatment depends on how the anxiety is affecting the daily life of the patient. Treatment can include providing management of uncontrolled symptoms such as pain, providing information and support, counseling and/or medication.
Cancer counseling services at Penn Medicine offer support and information about anxiety and concerns cancer patients may face as they undergo cancer treatment. Services also include psychological and spiritual counseling.
The Abramson Cancer Center offers psychological and spiritual counseling. For more information about counseling services at the Abramson Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-800-789-PENN or call directly 215-615-0534.
The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital also offers multiple programs for stress reduction, including psychological counseling, stress and energy management, music therapy, guided imagery, art therapy and spiritual counseling. For more information about counseling services at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-800-789-PENN or call directly 215-829-6466.
The Penn Program for Mindfulness is an evidence-based program that teaches patients how to manage stress with tools taught by qualified instructors. The Penn Program for Mindfulness is available to patients at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.