Coping with Anxiety during Treatment

May 7, 2019 Gailon Wixson, Master of Social Work Intern

A cancer diagnosis can come as a shock to patients and families. Following a diagnosis, you may have to spend time learning new terms, determining what treatments are available, and assessing how your life may look different moving forward. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common responses to a cancer diagnosis and it is important to note that these feelings may occur for family members and caregivers as well as patients. A person with cancer and their family members may feel a loss of control over their health and the events occurring in their lives. As the symptoms and treatment of cancer change, feelings of stress and anxiety can change as well.

Patients with more social and emotional support tend to report lower levels of anxiety and depression when undergoing cancer treatment. Encouraging conversation around the issues that make you feel anxious with your support system can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety. They can also help connect you to supportive treatments that will be most helpful based on your needs. This is why it is important to share your concerns with your care team. Anxiety can be helped with a combination of medications, support groups, and psychotherapy, all of which are available to you at the Swedish Cancer Institute. Treatments such as deep breathing, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback, and yoga may also be helpful.1

To be able to accept help with anxiety during treatment, you may find it helpful to first process the feelings that come along with a cancer diagnosis. This can take time, but when you are ready, there are supportive care services available to patients at Swedish. Social workers are available to patients and their family members to help process feelings associated with a cancer diagnosis. In addition, they can help you to navigate quality of life resources, legal documents, financial and insurance resources, as well as refer you to a therapist in the Seattle area.

There are also support groups that meet at Swedish tailored to different diagnoses, stages of cancers, and stages of treatments. Art and music therapy are available on a group and individual basis to help you navigate feelings of anxiety in a way that may be different than your traditional therapy. It is important to remember that your feelings of anxiety during cancer treatment are a normal part of this process. You do not have to face this anxiety alone, and your care team is here to help connect you to whatever resources will be most helpful to you. To speak with your Swedish Cancer Institute Oncology Social Worker, please call 206-386-3228.

1 American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Anxiety, Fear, and Depression: Having cancer affects your emotional health. Retrieved from:


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