The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Emotional Aspects of Cancer

This page is all about managing the emotional aspects of your cancer diagnosis.
Please watch the videos below from Dr Jane Clark, talking about the emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis

Dr Jane Clark - video 1

 Dr Jane Clark - video 2

Your Feelings After Cancer Treatment

After cancer treatment has ended, your family members, friends or work colleagues may assume or expect you will be "back to normal". But some patients tell us there is no such thing as getting back to how they were before diagnosis. it's about finding the new normal.

rollercoasterPatients have told us that being diagnosed with cancer can feel like being on a rollercoaster - it can turn your whole life upside down. Most of us have a sense of what is ahead of us; what we are having for dinner, or where we are going on our next holiday. But none of us prepare for a cancer diagnosis. Being diagnosed with cancer could make you question your beliefs and goals for the future which is inevitably going to cause some distress.

If you take a moment and think about some of the feelings and emotions you have experienced since being diagnosed with cancer.

These could be positive or negative emotions you've experienced since being diagnosed with cancer.

Patients have described feelings of:

 Guilt,  Anger,    Fear,  Worry for others,      Afraid,     Courage,        Reflection,        What's really important,    Worried about work,         Telling family members,    Relief,       Strength to get well,     Positivity

It's interesting that despite us all being individuals you may have shared some of the same emotional feelings, which highlight that these thoughts are perfectly understandable and a natural reaction to what you have been through.

The Change Curve



The change curve was developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, was a Swiss psychiatrist who studied terminal cancer patients in the 1960's. She looked at their emotional journeys from their diagnosis and came up with the "Stages of Grief" model. This was initially developed to help dying patients cope with death and bereavement.

Please see the change curve diagram above

The model however ended up having a much wider application. it has now become a useful tool for understanding our own and other peoples emotional reaction to personal trauma and change - such as a cancer diagnosis. The change curve today, is now used widely in the business world, changes due to COVID and any other new working arrangement.

You may be able to relate to some of these feelings in the Change Curve during your cancer experience. Maybe not in the same order, as the change curve illustrates; you may experience all, or skip over some of these emotions. You may revisit or stay in one stage for a long period of time. If this is the case, you may be wondering what is the purpose of this model, if it can vary so much from person to person.

The answer to this is that the model acknowledges an individuals pattern of reactive emotional responses, which people may feel when coming to terms with a trauma. People have to pass through their own individual journey of coming to terms with the situation after which there is a general acceptance of reality which enables the person to cope.

As the saying goes, Time is a great healer

When should I be concerned about how I am coping?

Stress and feelings of anxiety can be damaging if frequently affecting your daily life.

Questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Are your feelings getting in the way of living well?
  • Is this normal for you?
  • Is this a normal reaction given my circumstances?

What are some of the signs of Anxiety and Depression?


Some of the signs and symptoms that may indicate you are struggling with anxiety include:

  • Feeling worried, nervous, tense and uneasy
  • Feeling panicky and / or frightened
  • Continual sense of dread
  • Muscle tension
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Racing heart rate
  • Panic Attacks

Ways to reduce Anxiety:

There are many ways in which you can help to reduce your anxiety.

  • Talking to someone who has had a similar experience 
  • Local support services
  • Relaxation, visualisation, mindfulness, meditation and sophrology
  • Yoga and Tai Chi
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Distraction techniques
  • One to One and Counselling support
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapies

What is Depression?

Depression is a common condition with a broad range of symptoms. It is a normal response to any trauma, such as being diagnosed with cancer and it can happen at any stage; even after treatment has finished. Reasons for this may include, less frequent reassurance or communication with your clinical team and also other people's expectations about how they think you should be feeling.

What can help?

  • Talking therapies - such as counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Exercise
  • Peer support - joining a support group
  • Speaking to a medical professional
  • Practicing Mindfulness and Sophrology

If you experience two or more of the symptoms of Anxiety and/or Depression for more than a two week period, we encourage you to speak to a health care professional. This could be your GP or Cancer Nurse Specialist Team.

5 Steps to help you Improve your Mental Well Being

wellbeingcircleEvidence suggests there are 5 steps you can take to improve your mental health and well being. Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able to get the most out of life.

  1.  Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing – in fact it is known to be particularly beneficial for mental wellbeing. It will also help you build new social networks.
  2. Connect – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships. Connecting with people helps you relax and let off steam and find an outlet through talking. Share your problems, get a different perspective on your problems and find support.
  3. Be active - Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. For more information on how you could be more active, click here for the link to the Physical Activity page.
  4. Keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike? Learning something new is motivating in itself. It can build confidence, provide a new sense of purpose, distract from worries and help to build emotional resilience.
  5. Be Mindful - read below for more information on how to practice mindfulness.


Many people benefit from practicing Mindfulness. This can provide tools to support on-going well being and to help deal with stress and troubling thoughts.

So what is Mindfulness?

  • Originates from Buddhist Practices, which is over 2500 years old
  • It's paying attention to yourself and your surroundings - all about the here and now
  • Medically proven to help live with chronic and terminal medical conditions
  • Used as treatment for depression and anxiety
  • Recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), and is used today in schools, sports and businesses

How can Mindfulness help my mental wellbeing?

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.

How Can I be more Mindful?

  • Notice the everyday - Pay attention to your surroundings, the food you eat, the leaves on the floor when you're walking
  • Keep it regular - It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you
  • Try something new - Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.

For more ways on how you can be more mindful in your every day life, visit the NHS Mindfulness website - NHS Mindfulness

For more information about Mindfulness and it's benefits, watch the videos below where Lynne Dowson, a Leeds Cancer Support volunteer introduces the benefits of Mindfulness and will take you through a Mindfulness taster session.

An Introduction to Mindfulness 

 Mindfulness - Taster Session


What is Sophrology?

Sophrology is a fantastic blend of Eastern and Western techniques inspired by yoga, progressive relaxation, hypnosis and mindfulness. It's main benefit is that it helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Sophrology reconnects with the body - you become aware  of the sensations in your body, and will learn to feel your body as it truly is. You will become aware of how you are feeling on the inside in the here and now.
  • Objective reality - There is no judgement. you will learn to see things as they really are.
  • Positivity - Sophrology reinforces our positive resources. it does not mean that we ignore the negative, but during a Sophrology session we don't focus on it.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you have recently completed cancer treatment, it is hardly surprising that you may have some mental health issues to deal with as a result. The Key Point is that you need to talk to someone and the earlier the better. The great news is that anxiety and depression are treatable. Acknowledging it earlier makes it easier to treat.

Below are links to Maggie's Leeds and  Leeds Cancer Support. Both services can offer you further information, care and support.


Link to the Maggie's Leeds website

Link to Leeds Cancer Support