Anxiety is a common symptom among people with cancer. According to Cancer.net, anxiety may be described as feeling nervous, "on edge" or worried. A normal emotion, it alerts your body to respond to a threat. However, intense and prolonged anxiety is a disorder which may interfere with your daily activities and relationships. Anxiety may make coping with cancer treatment more difficult and may also interfere with your ability to make choices about your care. Therefore, identifying and managing anxiety are important parts of cancer treatment.1
Anxiety may make coping with cancer treatment more difficult and may also interfere with your ability to make choices about your care.
The Society for Integrative Oncology evidence-based clinical practice guidelines cite the following complementary approaches as being useful in an integrative plan to manage anxiety:3
- Mind-body approaches including these:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- Music therapy
- Relaxation training
- Supportive/expressive therapy stress management
- Support groups
- Massage from a trained massage therapist
- Therapies based on a philosophy of bioenergy fields, such as these:
Medical cannabis is reputed by some to reduce anxiety, although a 2018 review found insufficient evidence to support this use.4 In fact, for some, cannabis can increase feelings of uneasiness or anxiety, especially the strains that are higher in THC.
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Laura Pole, RN, OCNS, October 18, 2018: Ruth Hennig, a two-time breast cancer survivor and member of the BCCT team, has written blog posts describing her experience using acupuncture and other complementary approaches to bolster her resilience during treatment and tame her anxiety upon learning the breast cancer had recurred. Her tips and insights for taking care of herself after a double mastectomy are simple and practical, and they may be incredibly valuable for others having a mastectomy. See her posts in the Our Blog box below.
Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and reviewed by Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on October 18, 2018.
- Cancer.net: Anxiety
- SIO clinical practice guidelines:
- Deng GE, Frenkel M et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: complementary therapies and botanicals. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2009 Summer;7(3):85-120.
- Deng GE, Rausch SM et al. Complementary therapies and integrative medicine in lung cancer: diagnosis and management of lung cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2013 May;143(5 Suppl):e420S-e436S.
- Greenlee H, DuPont-Reyes MJ et al. Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2017 May 6;67(3):194-232.
- Michael Lerner: Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer
- Fang Fu, Huaijuan Zhao, Feng Tong, and Iris Chi: A Systematic Review of Psychosocial Interventions to Cancer Caregivers
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: The Healing Mind
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: Fighting Cancer
- Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
- Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition
- Ted Schettler, MD, MPH: The Ecology of Breast Cancer: The Promise of Prevention and the Hope for Healing
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- Wayne Jonas, MD: Your Healing Journey: A Patient’s Guide to Integrative Breast Cancer Care
- September 2018 Issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Mala Cunningham, PhD: Before and After Surgery
- Belleruth Naparstek: Guided Meditations to Promote Successful Surgery
- Martin L. Rossman, MD: Fighting Cancer from Within
- Integrative Cancer Review
- Block KI, Block PB, Gyllenhaal C: Integrative Treatment for Colorectal Cancer