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Mental health is important when dealing with cancer, from financial stress to coping with the loss of a loved one

The diagnosis itself, the trauma of going through treatments and the bereavement of losing someone all take their toll on mental wellbeing.Picture:Unsplash/Gadiel Lazcano

The diagnosis itself, the trauma of going through treatments and the bereavement of losing someone all take their toll on mental wellbeing.Picture:Unsplash/Gadiel Lazcano

Published Sep 12, 2023


The connection between chronic illnesses, such as cancer, and mental well-being is an often underrated aspect of the overall impact they have on individuals and society.

Cancer has become one of the most pressing health challenges worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is predicted to rise by around 70% in the next two decades.

Contributing factors include an ageing population, lifestyle changes, and limited access to preventive healthcare. These staggering statistics emphasise the urgency of raising awareness about cancer and addressing its impact on mental well-being.

Beyond the physical toll it exacts, cancer often takes a significant toll on an individuals mental well-being. Depression, anxiety and other psychological challenges are frequently experienced by cancer patients.

This connection arises from the emotional strain of diagnosis, treatment demands, uncertainty about the future, social isolation and fear of mortality.

Acknowledging and addressing the mental health aspect of cancer is crucial for providing holistic care and support to patients and their families.

A diagnosis of cancer or any dread disease is a devastating blow, not only for the patient but for their family and loved ones. The diagnosis itself, the trauma of going through treatments and the bereavement of losing someone all take their toll on mental wellbeing.

There is help available with programmes designed to support families on the cancer journey, as well as financial support available from elements such as gap cover, where value-added benefits may cover items like trauma counselling, which can be a lifeline in times of great need.

Looking after your mental health is essential, both for fighting disease and coping with the trauma of diagnosis and subsequent loss.

Evy Michalopoulos is the Founder and CEO of Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, a non-profit organisation that raises awareness about cancer, its symptoms and treatment, helps to guide cancer patients and their families as they navigate this difficult journey.

She believes that sound mental health is critical, both for patients fighting cancer and for families who are on this journey with a loved one or have already experienced a loss.

In South Africa, cancer mortality rates have risen steadily over the years. According to the South African National Cancer Registry, approximately 115,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually, with breast, cervical, prostate, and lung cancer being the most prevalent.

These numbers highlight the importance of cancer awareness, regular screenings, and investing in accessible healthcare services for all.

Besides the physical and emotional burden, cancer has a profound impact on financial well-being. The cost of treatment, medication, hospital stays, and supportive care services can be astronomical.

This burden can cause significant stress, leading to further deterioration of mental health. Ensuring financial support systems and comprehensive health insurance coverage are in place is crucial to alleviate this burden and ensure that individuals and families can focus on recovery rather than financial worries.

In situations like this, it helps to know that you are not alone. Organisations like Machi Filotimo are there to help patients and their families and loved ones, providing a vital support system.

Alongside this support, it is also recommended that people in situations like a cancer diagnosis also seek professional mental healthcare treatment.

However, often, the cost of this can put people off, especially when they are already facing potential medical expense shortfalls relating to cancer treatments.

Cancer's global rise demands our attention, not just regarding mortality rates but also the holistic well-being of patients and their loved ones.

Recognizing the mental health challenges faced by those battling cancer is an essential step in providing comprehensive care.

Adequate investment in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment options is vital to mitigate the financial implications and reduce the burden on affected individuals and society as a whole.

By increasing awareness and encouraging proactive measures, we can make a positive impact on the lives of cancer patients, their mental well-being, and their overall quality of life.