Trying to stay positive

Being positive and thinking positively can help you cope with cancer, but it is natural to also feel upset and frightened sometimes.

People with cancer are often encouraged to be positive. But it is not always very easy. Living with cancer and its treatment can be frightening. Sometimes, you might feel low and worried about your future.

What being positive means

You can be positive and think positively without always feeling cheerful or optimistic. 

It means recognising some of the fearful possibilities that can arise from having cancer. Thinking positively also recognises the importance of hope, whatever your situation. 

Even if your cancer is advanced, some treatments might relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

Feeling upset and frightened can be a sign of strength and may reflect your courage in facing up to an uncertain future. But sometimes, it can help to try to change negative thoughts into something more positive when they come into your head. This takes practice.

Expressing your feelings

This doesn’t mean that you always have to stop yourself from feeling down. It is important to allow yourself to experience your feelings.

It is fine to cry if you need to. If you feel very angry, find a safe way to express this.

You could try exercise or listen to very loud music. Sometimes they really can help. 

Don't let your imagination run away with you

A good rule of thumb is to stick to what you know is true.

If you keep thinking that your life will never be any good again because of your cancer, you don’t know that this is true. Most people with cancer do go through some negative feelings during their treatment, but in time things do usually get better.

Your support network

Make sure that you have a good support network of positive people around you, such as close friends and family, doctors and nurses, or a counsellor. These people can help lift your spirits and be there when you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to how you feel.

You may be surprised at how much talking to others can help.

More information

Maudsley Learning, part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, has a set of cancer and mental wellbeing videos for people affected by cancer.

The videos have information and advice on what to do if a cancer diagnosis affects your mental health. They cover several topics, including breaking bad news, managing anxiety, common reactions to a diagnosis, and relationships.

  • Effect of a Patient-Centered Communication Intervention on Oncologist-Patient Communication, Quality of Life, and Health Care Utilization in Advanced Cancer The VOICE Randomized Clinical Trial

    R Epstein and others

    The journal of the American Medical Association, 2017. Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 92-100

Last reviewed: 
03 Nov 2022
Next review due: 
03 Nov 2025

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