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The stress of cancer and the physical effects of the treatment can affect your emotions in many ways.
Our feelings in turn can affect our levels of energy, sexual desire, ability to sleep or our appetite. Some of these physical effects are more likely to affect the person diagnosed with cancer, while others may have an impact on their family and friends as well. How long these effects last will vary from person to person.
Fatigue| is an overwhelming feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. It can be a side effect of cancer or its treatments. It’s also very common in people who are anxious or depressed. If your tiredness is due to anxiety or depression, some of the ideas listed in our self-help| section may help.
Denton suffered from fatigue when he was going through cancer treatment. You can hear how he coped.
Cancer and its treatments can cause a loss of appetite|. However, you can also lose your appetite if you’re anxious or depressed. This in turn may make you lose weight. Some people just don’t feel hungry, or they feel full soon after starting a meal. Others find that food makes them feel sick or they notice a change in the taste of some foods. Some of the following suggestions may help improve your appetite:
We have more information eating problems and cancer| that gives helpful advice on how to cope.
You may notice that your interest in sex decreases as a result of cancer or its treatment. You may also lose interest in sex if you’re depressed. People are often reluctant to talk about this very intimate area of their lives, but it can help to talk to your partner about how you feel. It may help you both feel more secure if you explain that your lack of interest is not a sign of lack of affection. You may need to focus more on sensuality than sexuality at this time. Using touch can be an important way of telling someone how you feel. It can help you communicate emotions that are not easily expressed in words.
Cancer and its treatments can affect your sexual identity, whether or not you’re in a relationship. Treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy may lead to physical changes that affect your body image (the way you feel about your body). Other aspects of treatment may leave you feeling sexually unattractive or uninterested in sex.
These are very natural and understandable feelings. If you have trouble coping, you may find it helpful to discuss your feelings with a trained counsellor.
The charity Relate| provides relationship counselling and offers support by phone and online.
You can also discuss problems with your GP, cancer specialist or clinical nurse specialist, if you feel comfortable doing so.
Or you may want to call our cancer support specialists| if you would prefer to speak to someone over the phone.
You may find our section on Sexuality and cancer| helpful. It also includes videos with information from medical professionals, as well as people discussing their experiences.
Emotions such as anxiety and depression can make you more sensitive to pain|. This means that pain can be harder to bear. Dealing with your emotions or treating the depression can help reduce your pain, as well as improve your mood. Your doctor or nurse can help you manage both physical and emotional pain.
Many people have trouble sleeping at some point in their life. If you’re affected by cancer, you may find it difficult to sleep because of general anxiety, worry about treatment or fears about the future. Some of these suggestions may help you get a better night’s sleep:
We have more information on difficulty sleeping (insomnia)|, which you might find helpful.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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