Emotional Health After Cancer Treatment

Cancer is a traumatic experience and it is normal for patients to have difficult emotions such as anxiety or fear. Often, these feelings don’t simply go away once treatment ends. If you would like to talk to someone about your feelings or emotional health, ask to speak with one of City of Hope’s clinical social workers.

Patients often have difficult emotions after a traumatic experience like cancer, and may struggle with:


More than 25% of long-term cancer survivors report anxiety, a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease. It’s normal to feel emotionally drained and anxious when dealing with cancer, and for many, this feeling can last long after active treatment ends. There are many strategies that can help manage anxiety.

Coping with Changes to Your Body

Cancer treatment often results in changes to your body. Some of these changes may be short-term and others may be permanent. Acknowledging and processing these changes, such as the loss of your breasts or hair, the presence of scars, or changes in weight, is part of the recovery process for cancer survivors.


It’s normal for your cancer experience to make you feel sad or down, but about 15% of cancer survivors experience depression. These feelings can be intense and last long after treatment is over. City of Hope social workers are here to help if you are experiencing depression.

Fear of Recurrence

Almost 80% of all survivors experience some degree of fear of recurrence or worry their cancer might come back.

This is a completely understandable reaction to having had cancer, especially during times of uncertainty such as in between appointments or when waiting for test results. There are some techniques that can help you manage these fearful feelings.

Post-Traumatic Growth

While survivors might not say they are glad they had cancer, more than 80% say they experienced positive changes as a result of their experience. Many gain a greater appreciation for life or a deeper understanding of their own strength or resilience, form stronger relationships or have made positive changes as a result of their cancer experience. These are some common feelings you might experience after completing treatment. Talking to a professional can help you navigate these emotions. You can reach a social worker by calling the Division of Clinical Social Work at 626-256-4673, ext. 62282.

Post-Traumatic Stress

Being diagnosed with cancer can give us a deeper understanding that life is unpredictable and a greater sense of vulnerability. It is normal to feel stress after enduring a traumatic experience like having cancer. Studies show more than 35% of cancer survivors experience feelings of post-traumatic stress. Relaxation techniques, meditation and support groups are very helpful at relieving distress.

Spirituality and Faith

When coping with cancer, survivors often reflect on issues related to spirituality such as the purpose of life, the meaning of suffering, the meaning of their illness and what they value most in life. Regardless of how it is practiced, spirituality can be an important aspect of life and a source of comfort after a major illness.

Survivor's Guilt

It is common for cancer survivors to question why they survived when others didn’t. It’s normal to experience feelings of guilt, grief and loss. More than 60% of cancer survivors report feeling this way. If you are experiencing strong feelings of survivor guilt, ask to speak to a City of Hope social worker.

Support Services

The Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center offers information, education and support, as well as programs including support groups, classes, and music and art therapy and more to help you cope with your feelings. Call 626-218-2273 for more information.

City of Hope offers a variety of supportive programs:
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Tai chi
  • Support groups
  • Guided meditation videos