Each case of thyroid cancer is different as is each patient’s emotional response to it. If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer it is important that you find a healthy coping method that works best for you. The following sections outline several methods of coping with thyroid cancer including emotional and social support, education and research, lifestyle changes, and engaging with a community or support group. Incorporating some or all of these practices can be beneficial in response to a thyroid cancer diagnosis.
Emotional and Social Support
It is common for newly diagnosed cancer patients to experience depression, fear, anxiety, and even anger. The same is also true for individuals with friends or loved ones who have been recently diagnosed with cancer. Responding to such events with powerful emotions is normal. However, it is important to recognize that they may negatively impact health and daily life if they are ignored.
Depression is a particularly concerning issue that may be triggered by a difficult diagnosis. Depression can cause greater emotional and physical distress that can worsen the condition of a thyroid cancer patient. In some cases, depression may not be easily recognized. Some of the warning signs and symptoms of depression include thoughts of self-harm or suicide, difficulty eating and sleeping, malaise, and extreme restlessness. Even though the immediate response may be to sequester oneself and avoid contact with others, that will likely make the situation worse. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression reach out to a doctor or trusted individual to get the help you need.
Education and Research
Some find it highly beneficial to seek out more information on their newly diagnosed condition. This helps alleviate fear of the unknown that patients often experience when receiving an unfamiliar or unexpected diagnosis. Learning all you can about thyroid cancer can also help you become better acquainted with the treatment process and aid in the decision making process.
There are many free online sources that provide an abundance of useful information regarding thyroid cancer. The Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, or ThyCa, offers information on topics such as the different forms of thyroid cancer, conferences and educational meetings, and recent news regarding thyroid cancer developments in the medical field. Newly diagnosed thyroid cancer patients may find ThyCa’s Thyroid Cancer Basics Handbook and Guide for Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients particularly helpful.
Find a Trusted Doctor
Ideally, after diagnosis, a patient continues to have the assistance of a trusted medical expert to help along their journey to recovery. A doctor’s guidance and knowledge are indispensable resources that should be used to the fullest. To get the most benefit from their expertise always attend scheduled appointments, meetings, and tests. Working with a physician and listening to their recommendations gives patients the greatest opportunity for recovery. If a newly diagnosed patient has any questions or concerns about their condition, they should ask their doctor as they will be happy to provide a response or research the question in greater depth.
In addition to medical procedures and medications there are a number of lifestyle practices they may improve not only prognosis but physical and mental health. Making thoughtful changes, such as improving diet and sleep habits, during treatment and continuing them through its completion may limit the recurrence of cancer while also improving general wellness. Other lifestyle optimizations can be exceptionally beneficial for reducing stress and improving the body’s capacity to fight off cancer.
Healthy exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy level, reduce weight, and make the body stronger. Each of these factors can help lower the risk of developing future cancers and limit the risk of recurring thyroid cancer. Even mild low intensity activities such as yoga, tai chi, or walking outside can provide a significant boon for mental and physical health that may help patients cope with a cancer diagnosis.
If a person smokes or drinks heavily, cessation of these activities is the best way to improve their health and mental state. Cigarette smoke is a known carcinogen that increases cancer risk. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption puts immense strain on the body that reduces its ability to fend of disease. These two practices are examples of unhealthy coping methods that can significantly damage the body. Breaking these habits can be difficult and patients may benefit from seeking out the aid of a doctor or addiction support group.
Join a Cancer Support Group
After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer there is incredible value in engaging with a group of people who are familiar with the difficulties associated with this challenging condition. There are many different thyroid cancer support groups that offer an outlet for sharing personal experiences involving thyroid cancer. These groups provide significant emotional support as well as helpful information and resources for coping with thyroid cancer.
Support groups can take many different forms including in-person meetings, online forums, e-mail groups, and even video discussions. A directory of online and in-person support groups can be found here. Facebook and other social media platforms are also likely to have thyroid cancer support groups but use discretion as the quality of such groups can vary significantly.
Responding Well to a Difficult Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis can disturb and disrupt your life by causing significant emotional and physical stress. Without responding appropriately to the powerful emotions triggered by a thyroid cancer diagnose, your condition can worsen. It is essential during these times of distress to seek out the support of friends and loved ones, a doctor, and perhaps even a thyroid cancer support group or community. Being diagnosed with cancer is widely recognized as an extremely difficult experience. By seeking out appropriate care and support, improving lifestyle factors, and learning as much as possible about the condition, you can reduce the powerful impact of a thyroid cancer diagnosis.
1. American Cancer Society. Living as a Thyroid Cancer Survivor. Updated April 2016. www.cancer.org/cancer/thyroid-cancer/after-treatment/follow-up.html
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Thyroid Cancer. Mayo Clinic. Updated March 2018. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354167
3. William Blahd, MD. Tips to Handle Cancer Treatment Side Effects. WebMD. Updated September 2016. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/handling-side-effects-thyroid-cancer-treatments#1