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Resilience in Cancer Patients

The number of cancer cases is increasing day by day. There are almost 19 million cases of cancer globally. It is now one of the leading causes of death worldwide. increasing cancer mortality is partly due to a limited number of effective therapies. Uncontrolled cell growth due to dysregulation of the cell cycle and apoptosis characterizes cancer. We will talk about resilience in cancer patients in detail here.

A cancer diagnosis can have a tremendous impact on any person’s physical as well as mental health. The negative psychological effects may last for a very long time for a person undergoing treatment and even for the patients who have recovered from the disease. This may lead to distress and depression in many patients. In fact, the percentage of patients suffering from depression and anxiety can be as high as 80 to 100 percent. 

What is resilience?

Resilience is an individual’s capability to maintain a normal state of functioning whether it is psychologically or physically under a stressful situation or duress in life or day-to-day events. Posttraumatic (PTG) is positive changes in anyone after recovering from any adversities or any crisis arising in the life of any individual.

Resilience can depend on a lot of factors. Such factors can be biological, personal, and social. Apart from this, we will delve into the role of PTG in resilience. Finally, find how resilience and PTG affect recovery from cancer.

Impact of cancer

Simply, the term cancer brings about negative feelings and vibes in our minds. Imagine someone diagnosed with cancer. That person will be in shock after hearing such news. In fact, there will be a tide of so many emotions at first such as fear, shock, panic, anger, guilt, etc. 

So, cancer can bring negative and long-lasting psychological changes in any person’s life. Not just to the cancer patient themselves but to their family members, friends, and caregivers. Even after the person has recovered from cancer, the person doesn’t recover mentally. The scars from the treatment and the uncertainty of recurrence haunt the person who has fully recovered from this disease.

Even after such drastic changes, some patients do show resilience to the disease. This is remarkable. Some studies believe it brings about personal growth and enhanced mental and emotional health. This can be a key to helping others who might not show such resilience and personal growth.

What is Meaning making and how does it work?

Let’s assume someone’s diagnosed with cancer. The first several months are quite important because these months lay the foundation of how the person’s surroundings and life would be. There might be a lot of changes in terms of physical, mental, social, and even spiritual due to cancer. These months will be flooded with emotions like fear, anger, guilt, etc plus other issues like health safety, financial issues, etc. 

Meaning making is kind of a conceptual model of how anyone reacts and adapts after the cancer diagnosis. This can be a behavioral process rather than a personality trait. It’s more of a coping mechanism by any individual. This process can be crucial to resilience. So, this process, if successful, may lead to a high level of resilience in cancer patients. However, if a person is unable to find any meaning then this process may lead to high levels of distress and negative psychological affect in any cancer patient.

Posttraumatic growth (PTG)

As described earlier, PTG is an individual’s personal, emotional and psychological growth after facing distress or adversities. It has been found that growth is enhanced if the level of stress or adversities goes higher. But the growth is not due to the stress or hostile situation itself but depends on active struggle and efforts put by the individual to deal or cope with the situation. 

Factors affecting resilience

Every step of cancer affects any cancer patient tremendously. There are so many socio-contextual factors in link with resilience. These depend upon the individual’s state of mind. What are the strengths and the weaknesses? So, in a way, resilience is born out of preexisting characteristics like social factors and the personal attributes (like optimism, way of looking at things, hope, support from family or friends, etc), adaptation mechanism, medical treatment experience, psychological factors like PTG, and of course on the quality of life. There are also other variables involved here like cancer-related factors. For example, how long was cancer diagnosed, or how severe is the disease?

Positivity and optimism

We all know that optimism can work wonders. The same goes for fighting cancer as well. Optimism has shown positive and protective effects on cancer patients. In many studies conducted so far, being optimistic has helped the cancer patients to better adjust to the disease, have reduced levels of stress, and also have a sense of acceptance of the situation. On the other hand, pessimism leads to high levels of stress and lesser quality of life. 

Hope is considered a very powerful tool to cope with cancer. It helps the patients to find meaning in their lives and works as an existential strategy to fight cancer. Some people lean on spirituality. Spirituality can help a person to create meaning in their life just like hope. Many patients have seen spiritual growth after being affected by cancer.

In a nutshell, all three: optimism, hope, and spirituality contribute to resilience. Hence, these all can add to the quality of life and better survival of any individual.

Summing up

Resilience is something that can contribute to cancer survival success. Fostering hope and optimism can help you to cope with cancer in a better way.


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