Mental Health and Cancer

The importance of mental health care during cancer treatment

Written by: Cindy Allison, Registered Psychotherapist

Hi, Carley’s Angels Family!

I am Cindy Allison, Registered Psychotherapist, and owner of Pathway-Therapy. As a therapist over the past 10 years, I have witnessed many people overcome hardships and obstacles in life. Carley was particularly exceptional in her battle with cancer; persevering, spreading strength, creating hope for those affected by cancer with her mantra #AlwaysSmile.

Today I will be talking about how having Cancer affects your emotional health.


The impact of a cancer diagnosis not only affects your body but effects your mind.


Feelings of depression, anxiety and fear are common responses to such a life changing experience. Changes in your body image often lead to self-esteem challenges. Your life has changed and what was once ordinary; family and work routine requires space for support and unpacking.


Recognizing what needs to be unpacked is difficult to do alone and the assistance of a mental health practitioner is essential. Much like stage 1 cancer is localized to one area of the body early mental health challenges may only flare up with few and very specific triggers. Left unaddressed stress triggers can become more frequent in life until it consumes you just as stage 4 cancer encompasses the entire body. Taking a more holistic approach to cancer treatment means that we are not only addressing the physical needs of the patient early on but the mental welfare as well.  


Most people with cancer will battle with an undiagnosed mental health condition.


One-third of the people treated for cancer in hospitals have or develop a mental health issue. This is not hard to imagine, given the stress and trauma individuals diagnosed experience. Though mental health is not the taboo topic it once was the resources in our medical system are still catching up and many people go undiagnosed. Given that most cancer patients are experiencing major depressive disorders (three times higher than in the general population) they are likely to exacerbate the fatigue they are already experiencing. After a patient has been discharged issues manifested during treatment such as anxiety and depression can persist. Following treatment plans and prevention, screening are needed as self-medication and excessive drinking is not uncommon.


Mental health treatment can improve the quality of life for cancer patients.


Ultimately, an all-around, holistic approach to cancer care can improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Studies have shown that those who received treatment had fewer symptoms of depression, longer average survival times than those who had more symptoms.


People who received mental health treatment see improvements in their overall medical condition and are more likely to follow through with medical care and have a better quality of life.


Working on your emotional well-being provides autonomy and feeling more in control of your life. That is empowering. It can help cancer patients feel the emotional strength they may have lost.


With care, Cindy Allison, RP. 

We hope you enjoyed this amazing piece about the importance of programs like the Carley’s Angels funded Psychosocial Oncology Fellowship at SickKids. For more information on the program click here 

To learn more, get involved or donate to Carley’s Angels as we work to unite traditional and holistic cancer care in hospitals while spreading Carley’s Message of  “always smile” please click here! 


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