Responses to Cancer: Behavioural- Emotional and Physical

Behavioural, Emotional, Physical and Cognitive Responses

Cancer is a deadly disease cause by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells and as a group, accounts for more than 14% of all deaths each year (Ahmedin, et al., 2008) and once, the individual finds out about his diagnosis with this deadly disease, the individual is likely to experience severe emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural response since, everyone knows that untreated and even treated cancer in some cases tend to be life threatening. The severity of these responses varies individually and is dependent on several factors such as whether the event was surprisingly recognized or whether earlier complaints were present, plays a major role (Verwoerdt, 1973). Furthermore, it depends on personal experience with the disease, for example, if previous generations of the family had been diagnosed with cancer (Verwoerdt, 1973).

Behaviour is one of many responses which plays a huge role throughout the individual’s diagnosis and is most probable to change thoroughly. These Behavioural responses generally result from the genetic makeup, past experience and the Individual’s perception of the current situation (Snyder, 2011). The individual is likely to experience several behavioural change with certain steps and are likely to prompt restlessness, stress, searching for several answers, anxiety or even disbelief.

The first step during the behavioural response usually involve Pre-contemplative/unawareness stage (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). In this stage the individual is not interested in his diagnosis nor does he plan to do anything about it. The individual is completely in state of denial, unmotivated and resistant regarding his diagnosis. The individual is also likely to defend his current behaviour if others such as his doctor or family member’s try to intervene.

The second behavioural response stage involves contemplative phase where the individual starts to think about his life and his family which ultimately leads him to think about his diagnosis and treatment seriously (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). Most individuals tend to accept their problem at this phase and eventually start to plan about their future strategies to improve his and family’s life.

The third behavioural phase involves preparation where the individual tend to realise that a change is inevitable (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). The individuals also incline to realise the severity and seriousness of his cancer and usually makes several decisions and commitments to change the outcome of his diagnosis. This stage usually tend to be a period of transition and therefore, tend to be quite short.

In the fourth behavioural phase, the individual tries to implement several strategies to start a “new” life (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). The individuals going through this phase also tend to be realistic and open minded in terms of receiving help and support. This step normally is the “willpower” stage for most individuals going through hardship and often tend to reward themselves to enhance motivation and self-confidence which often help them to deal with personal and external pressures.

The fifth and last behavioural phase include maintenance where many individuals try to consolidate changes in their behaviour, to maintain the ‘new’ status quo and to prevent relapse or temptation (Miller & Rollnick, 2002). The individual normally tend to see any previous behavioural change undesirable, unnecessary and customarily tries to implement new working strategies by the means of seeking help, usually a doctor.

Whilst the individual’s behaviour is fluctuating, emotion is likely to build up the moment the individual finds out about his cancer. These emotions often trigger responses such as feelings of fear, anger, rage, sadness and dejection.Such mood swings are tend to be normal andmost individual incline to live through this cold baths of feelings for a long time until the individual finds his way for himself to accept the disease.

In most individuals, the diagnosis of Cancer triggers shock as the first emotional response (Tsao, 2010) which usually last from hours to days. Many individuals feel alienated, frozen and cannot think clearly. In this stage the patient is unable to conduct basic necessities of his life, requires help and constantly shows his emotions.

The second response of emotion involves denial where the individual attempts to shut out the authenticity and magnitude of his situation by developing a fabricated, desirable reality (Tsao, 2010).

Once the individual accepts his fate with the diagnosis and overcomes the denial, the third phase of emotion includes wrath and anger. During this phase the individual constantly thinks about his diagnosis to be unfair and ask questions such “Why is it always me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this transpire to me?” (Tsao, 2010).

The next phase usually involve bargaining (Tsao, 2010) where many individuals try to negotiate with their fate by constantly making statements such as “I’ll do anything to live for few more years” therefore creating a sense of hope. In this stage, the individuals also tend to isolate themselves from others and even prevent any human interactions.

After the individual realises that his fate cannot be bargained depression starts to take place as a fifth emotional phase (Tsao, 2010). In this phase, the patient is dealing with his diagnosis and the intensive life of contradictory feelings which might lead the individual to the utmost limit of his mental capacity. The individual’s psychological immune system is also likely to be flooded with stimuli, which might often results in fatigue, hopelessness and resignation.

Once, the depression is overwhelmed acceptance, is likely to take place as a last step of emotional response (Tsao, 2010). In this phase the individual usually accepts his fate and makes statement such as “I have cancer and I will live with it” as a motivation. Once the individual stabilises himself on this setting, he stands on a firm foundation for a self-determined life and inclines to makes new plans and to actively solve his problems.

Cognitive is another major part the individual’s response once the diagnosis has been revealed. In this phase, several negative thoughts tend to arise whilst the individual is interacting such as communicating, reading, watching television, listening to radio etc. (Park, 2013). cognitive changes in patients suffering from cancer may possibly be caused by disease, cancer treatment, complications of the treatment, comorbid conditions, side effects of drugs, other physiological responses to diagnosis of cancer (Park, 2013). In this response, the individual rarely thinks positively and normally tends to thinks rationally and therefore several suicidal and self-harm thoughts tend to arise. This response takes place whilst emotional and behavioural response is developing and usually ends once the individual’s treatment has been completed.

Several physical response such as hair/weight loss, inability to speak about the cancer without experiencing grief, overreacting to minor events, loss of appetite, fatigue etc. are likely to arise throughout the whole process of cancer and its treatment. These physical changes are likely to make the individual feel shameful, guilty, paranoia and even Intellectualization. These types of physical changes are usually seen once the emotional, behavioural and cognitive responses takes place (Moos & Schaefer, 1984).

In conclusion, the onset of any illness gives rise to a wide range of different responses such as emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural which varies greatly from individual to individual, even in those with the same condition. However, from above information regarding various responses, it is clear that the above responses stated are likely to arise at various point of any illness.


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