Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Many people feel down at various times during their illness. One day you may feel well and relaxed, while on others you may feel frightened, stressed, angry, sad and even guilty, or all of these feelings together.
Having a range of emotions is a normal response to your breathlessness, the cancer, the treatment and any fears you have about the future. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with these feelings but accepting they are normal will help.
Sometimes you may feel that you need to be alone, while at other times you may want to be with people. As far as you can, go with what feels right for you at the time. You may have family and friends who find your changing emotions difficult to understand, but if you talk together about how each of you feel, you’ll understand each other better and be able to cope with the problems more easily.
Anxiety may cause you to over-breathe or to breathe too fast from the top of your lungs rather than from your lower chest. Some people feel as though they are having a panic attack. If this happens, try to gradually slow your breathing rate and use controlled breathing exercises|.
If you notice there are times when you over-breathe, try to identify what has triggered it. Talking about the cause with friends or family may help because they will recognise the signs if it happens again.
Some people become depressed| as a result of their cancer and difficult symptoms such as breathlessness. Everyone can feel down or anxious at times but sometimes these feelings don’t seem to pass and can become worse. Depression can come on gradually and may be difficult to recognise, but it can usually be successfully treated.
The first step to feeling better is getting appropriate help. If you or your family think you may be depressed, discuss it with your GP. They can prescribe an antidepressant drug for you or refer you to a doctor or counsellor who specialises in the emotional problems of people with cancer.
You and your partner may be concerned about the impact of breathlessness on your sex life. Sex requires energy and makes demands on the heart and lungs. It’s important to recognise this and make some adjustments. Talking together about your concerns and what may help will help you both enjoy a fulfilling sex life.
Talking, hugging and touching are all important parts of intimacy that need not use up too much energy. Try to have sex when you’re feeling rested and your breathing is at its best. You might find it helpful to have sex at a different time of day - for example, early evening rather than late at night.
You may need to try different positions to keep breathlessness to a minimum. Make sure you’re as relaxed as possible and take things slowly.
The British Lung Foundation| has illustrations of suggested sexual positions for people with breathlessness.
You may also find our section on Sexuality and cancer| helpful.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|