Why Do Cancer Patients Get Mean? Causes Explained

Why do cancer patients get mean? Causes explained: Coping with cancer's physical and emotional toll can lead to irritability, anger, and mood changes in some patients.

When someone learns they have cancer, their life turns upside down. They feel a mix of emotions like being scared and overwhelmed.1 This can make them moody or easily upset, showing anger or frustration.

Cancer affects both body and mind. It messes with daily life, makes understanding medical terms hard, and stops them from doing what they enjoy.1 They may worry about many things, like not being able to take care of their family or losing their job.

The process of treating cancer brings more stress. There are worries about paying for treatment, finding support, and how to get to doctor visits.1 All this can make them even more irritable and affect their mood.

Key Takeaways

  • Cancer diagnosis and treatment can lead to overwhelming emotions, including fear, stress, and anxiety, which can result in changes in mood and behavior.
  • Patients may feel a loss of control, disruption in their routine, and difficulty with medical terminology, activities, and feelings of helplessness and loneliness.
  • Fears related to pain, physical changes, family, finances, job, and death can also contribute to a patient’s irritability and resentment.
  • Stress and anxiety during treatment, such as insurance coverage, emotional support, daily routines, work-life balance, and transportation, can further impact a patient’s emotional state.
  • Understanding the underlying causes of a cancer patient’s “meanness” can help loved ones and caregivers provide the support and understanding they need.

Feeling Overwhelmed by Cancer Diagnosis

When you first hear you have cancer, life can feel very hard.2 Everyone feels a lot at first because they worry about their future. Meeting doctors and taking care can break your usual life.2 Deciding on treatment is tough, and dealing with its effects is even harder sometimes.

Loss of Control

Feeling like you’ve lost control is normal after a cancer diagnosis.2 This can bring up many feelings, including surprise and then feeling nothing at all.2 Not knowing what to do and feeling swamped are usual feelings.1 People who learn a lot about their cancer often feel better and heal faster than those who don’t.

Disrupted Routine

Having cancer can mess up your usual day.1 It can make you feel anxious about keeping your life going how you’re used to.

Medical Terminology Confusion

Sometimes, the words about your cancer can be too much to understand.3 Finding hope when you’re sick is very important but not always easy. Keeping realistic yet hopeful can help with choosing what’s best for you.

Inability to Enjoy Activities

Cancer and its treatments can make you too tired or sad to do what you love.2 The way you feel mentally and physically can affect each other, like feeling tired or looking different.2 Some people might face changes in their body, pain, and being less interested in sex.

Feelings of Helplessness and Loneliness

Some cancer patients might feel very alone, during and after their treatment.1 This is because they might not feel understood or able to do the things they used to. They might also miss the care they got during their treatment.3 It’s common to feel lonely and cut off from others because some friends or family may stay away due to their fear of saying or doing something wrong.

Fear and Worry About Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is very scary. People worry about many things. They fear pain from the cancer or treatment.1 They also worry about how treatment might change them.1 Not being able to care for family is a big concern.1 Costs of medical care and losing a job cause stress.1 And of course, many fear death.1 Learning about their illness can help lower anxiety. It lets them take an active role in their care.1

Research shows that knowing about cancer helps in treatment. It makes recovery faster.1 Talking about fears can help handle emotions. It can better focus on getting well.1

cancer patient fears

Many people in the US and UK fear cancer the most.4 A lot worry about getting it. A small number really worry.4 This is a lot of people dealing with cancer fears.4

Fear can make someone not want to find help. Or, it might push them to seek care. It depends on what they fear.4 Knowing these fears helps offer better support. It’s key to helping patients and families.4

Stress and Anxiety During Treatment

During and after cancer treatment, many feel stress. They worry about changes in their life.5 About half of cancer patients report severe distress. This can lead to trouble doing daily activities, physical issues, trouble at home, and depression.5 It also includes problems in social and spiritual areas and stress linked to cancer.5

Insurance Coverage Concerns

Patients get stressed about paying for their tests and treatments.6 Early talks with their healthcare team and social workers could ease this worry. They help sort out insurance issues before it’s a big problem.

Seeking Emotional Support

It’s vital for patients to find emotional support. This can be through counseling, groups, or family.5 Getting the right support can lower their stress levels.5

Assistance with Daily Routines

Cancer patients find sticking to daily routines tough. This leads to frustration and feelings of not being in control.5 If tasks become hard to handle, they may feel even more anxious.5 But, support with daily tasks can bring a sense of normalcy and lower stress.

Impact on Work-Life Balance

Juggling work, treatment, and personal life is hard. It adds to their stress.6 After receiving both medical and psychological help, patients felt less stress. The change was big enough to notice.6

Transportation to Clinic Visits

Getting to clinic visits can be hard for some. It’s especially tough for those who can’t drive.6 Transport stress issues, like fear and lack of information, were significantly reduced with the right help.6

Stress slows down healing for patients. So, dealing with these issues early on is key. They should talk to their healthcare team and try to find support.6 Counseling and support groups can help them deal with anxiety and cancer’s many challenges.5

why do cancer patients get mean

Feeling Like a Burden

Cancer patients can get irritable or “mean” feeling like they’re a burden.7 This makes them keep away to protect their family and friends.

See also  How Fast Does Bile Duct Cancer Spread? Understand Its Rate

Avoiding Emotional Conversations

They might skip talks about their sickness not to upset others. Or maybe because talking deep emotions is hard.7 They back off so they don’t have to cheer up the other person.

Fear of Upsetting Others

Some cancer patients don’t share their true feelings to shield others.7 They stay away from sad chats, which can make them seem mean.

Unrealistic Expectations After Treatment

After treatment, they might feel they must look fully healed, even if they’re not.7 They hide their actual state, making things harder and acting mean.

Hope and Positive Outlook

As cancer patients learn about their diagnosis, hope can shine through. Today, millions beat cancer, thanks to better treatments.1 A hopeful mindset is key. It helps in facing cancer and sticking to treatments. Studies show positive patients often get better faster.1

Survivorship Stories

Listening to survivors can ignite hope in patients. It shows there’s light after a cancer diagnosis.1

Active Lifestyle During Treatment

Even with treatments, patients can stay active. Doing things one loves keeps life feeling normal and upbeat.

Scheduling and Routine

A set schedule and routine can make cancer feel less overpowering. Small, reachable goals empower patients.1

Finding Reasons for Hope

Spiritual reflection and nature can lift spirits. Focusing on the good helps see the value in life.1

Nature and Spirituality

Being in nature or in spiritual activities brings peace. It could be a park walk or peaceful gardening. These moments offer comfort.1

Anger and Resentment

It’s common for cancer patients to feel mad at different things. This can include their cancer, doctors, or even the people around them.1 Sometimes, this anger is from feeling scared, frustrated, or helpless.1 However, getting mad all the time isn’t good. It’s not good for the people around them, and it’s not good for the patient.

8 If you know someone with cancer who is always angry, here’s what you can do. Help them manage their emotions. Be understanding and avoid saying things that could make them more upset.8 Don’t fight or force them to do something. Instead, show them you’re there to help and understand. This can make things better for everyone.

Sadness and Depression

Many cancer patients feel very sad about their illness.1 They miss their old life a lot. This feeling can last after the treatment.1 It might even turn into clinical depression. But, this is something that can be helped.1

Emotional Signs of Depression

Cancer patients with depression are often very sad.1 They might feel guilty or think they are not worth much. Losing interest in things they used to like also happens.1 Sometimes, they even think about suicide.1

Physical Signs of Depression

Depression can also show in physical ways.1 Like having trouble sleeping or eating. Feeling tired all the time. Or having a lot of body pain for no clear reason.19

Seeking Professional Help

If you have cancer and feel depressed, talk to your doctor about it.1 There are medicines and therapies that can help.1 Depressed cancer patients can get better.9 Seeking help changes a lot for the good in a patient’s life.9

Gratitude and Joy

Some cancer patients find a “wake-up call” in their diagnosis.1 They start valuing small joys in life more.10 This makes them enjoy simple things, finish old projects, and spend more time with loved ones. It helps boost their gratitude and joy, even with cancer.1

Appreciating Small Pleasures

After their diagnosis, cancer patients start loving life’s little things.1 They enjoy a good meal or the beauty around them.10 This change lets them find gratitude and joy in simple activities, which helps them deal with their illness.1

Pursuing Hobbies and Interests

Having hobbies and interests can help cancer patients a lot.1 It gives them something fun to focus on, apart from their illness.10 Completing a project, starting a new hobby, or going back to an old interest can bring a lot of joy. It also helps them be thankful for the simple pleasures in life.10

Mending Relationships

A cancer diagnosis might make people want to fix old relationships.1 Saying sorry, and reaching out to loved ones, can make a big difference.10 This effort brings gratitude and joy in their connections. It’s very important support during their illness.10

Feeling Lonely and Distant

Cancer patients often feel lonely or distant for some reasons.1 Friends might not visit or call much because they find it hard to deal with the news.1 Not being able to do their usual hobbies can make the patient feel left out.1 They might even feel alone with loved ones, thinking nobody gets what they’re facing.1

Friends Struggling to Cope

Getting a cancer diagnosis is tough on the patient and their close ones.11 It makes the patient feel far away from friends.11 Their friends might not know how to help, leading to a sense of being alone.11

Inability to Participate in Activities

Dealing with cancer takes a lot out of patients, both physically and emotionally.11 They find it hard to enjoy hobbies and see friends.11 This can make them feel cut off from their usual life.11

Feeling Misunderstood

Cancer patients often think no one truly understands what they’re going through.11 Feeling like this can make them even more isolated.11 It gets in the way of asking for the help they need.11

Seeking Support Groups

Joining support groups can really help cancer patients who feel lonely and cut off.1 These groups offer a chance to talk to others who get it.1 It provides emotional support and helps them know they’re not alone.1

Finding support groups and staying connected can fight off the loneliness that often comes with cancer.1 With the right people around, they can feel part of something and beat the isolation.1

End-of-Life Care

When cancer can’t be stopped, care turns to making life the best it can be for the patient.12 Hospice care starts about 6 months before death and makes life better.12 It’s for patients with less than 6 months to live.12

See also  Why is Liver Cancer So Deadly? Causes & Treatment Options

Palliative Care Options

Healthcare can help fight pain and symptoms for cancer patients. It’s aimed at keeping them comfy where they choose to be.12 Ways to know it’s time for more help are when medicine doesn’t ease pain, new pains show up, or breathing gets hard.12

Hospice Services

Hospices offer many services to help patients and family. They meet the patient’s and family’s needs all around.12 Early talks about options lead to less worry and better coping.12

Advance Directives

It’s key for cancer patients to share their wishes for end-of-life care.12 Talking openly with doctors helps a lot. Most patients want to know what to expect.12

Caregivers must also care for themselves to avoid burnout.12 Supporting a loved one means letting them talk about life and fears.12 Talk about past memories, lessons learned, and proud moments.12 Be honest but gentle with kids about what’s happening.12 Staying positive, even with cancer, can make a big difference.12

Feeling alone can spike anxiety and worry in cancer’s late stages.13 Meds can help calm these feelings.13 People can go through many emotions as they near the end.13 In the U.S., aging adults say loneliness links to their end-of-life time.13 Sharing with loved ones and caregivers helps tackle tough emotions.13

Emotional Support for Patients and Caregivers

It’s vital to support cancer patients and their families emotionally. Some patients might feel too overwhelmed to talk about their feelings. This could make friends and family feel pushed away.7

Patients might also feel guilty for the stress their illness causes. They may try to keep their loved ones away.7 Caregivers need to respect the patient’s feelings and space to not add more stress.7

Addressing Fears and Concerns

Cancer patients often fear being left alone, feeling like a burden, losing dignity, and control.7 Those used to helping others might struggle to accept help themselves. They might even avoid talking about their illness.7

This avoids uncomfortable discussions. Patients might also worry about upsetting others by discussing their illness. This might lead them to withdraw from conversations.7 They might also hesitate to ask for help after treatment, feeling they should be better by then.7

Respecting Privacy and Dignity

Respecting a patient’s privacy is key. It’s not okay to talk about their illness in public.7 Avoid talking about how the patient looks as it might not match how they feel.7

Don’t tell your own cancer stories, or suggest treatments, unless asked.7

Caregiver Self-Care

Caregivers must look after themselves, too. A study found that many caregivers felt depressed and anxious.14

Almost a third had a lot of burden. This burden linked to their own depression and anxiety.14

Seeking Help from Friends and Family

Caregivers should keep supporting cancer patients, even if not asked. This shows the patients they’re still cared for.7 They must stay in touch, offer help, and include them in things.7

Getting help from friends, family, and support services is essential. It helps caregivers handle the stress of looking after someone with cancer.

Talking to Children About Advanced Cancer

When someone in the family has advanced cancer, talking to kids is crucial. It’s vital to keep things honest, but at their level. Children need to know what’s going on. Being open with them helps everyone deal with the tough parts.


Honest and Age-Appropriate Communication

When it comes to talking about cancer, being direct is best. Giving too much info can overwhelm them. So, keep it simple and clear based on their age.16

Kids can tell if something’s wrong. They might worry a lot if they’re not told what’s happening.16

Addressing Tough Questions

Kids might ask if their sick parent will die. It’s a scary thought. But, studies show using the word “death” helps them get it.16

Dealing with death is hard. But, it’s key to be honest with kids about it.16

Providing Reassurance

Kids need to know they’re still loved. It’s important to let them talk about their feelings.16

Healthcare teams can offer tools like books or sites. They make explaining cancer easier.16

Talking openly with kids can also help the whole family. It lessens their worries and brings everyone closer.15

As tough as it is, being honest and giving kids the right info is best. It helps them understand and cope.1516

The Process of Dying from Cancer

Everyone’s trip through cancer is different. It depends on the cancer type, where it is, and how fast it spreads.17 As the person gets closer to dying, they may lose control of going to the bathroom. This happens because the body’s muscles that control this relax.17 They might move a lot because they’re uncomfortable. It’s vital to tell the doctors and nurses about this. They can help with pain.17

Cancer Metastasis and Organ Failure

Sometimes, the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. It can take over space and nutrients, causing healthy organs to stop working.17 Breathing can change, becoming loud or irregular. This is Cheyne Stokes breathing.17 Gurgling sounds during breaths happen because of extra mucus. Doctors might give medicine to dry it up.17 With less blood flowing, the hands and feet might feel cold. This is common in those who are dying.17

The person might get confused. They may not know where they are, or who is with them. This is because of changes in the body.17 Eventually, they will fall asleep and not wake up. Breathing will stop.17 People may change how they feel and what they believe in this time. It can be helping by their support and life experiences.17 They might want to fix any problems before they pass. This could be with family, places they want to see, or their stuff.17

See also  How Often Does Adenomyosis Turn Into Cancer?

Treatment Complications

Sometimes, the treatments for cancer can be too much. They might lead to death.18 At the end, cancer patients might be too weak to move much or get out of bed.18 They won’t be hungry, and may have trouble swallowing their medicine.18 They could sleep a lot, be confused, or talk about things that don’t make sense.18

Cancer patients may not want to eat at the end. Their mouth might be dry.18 Their body may not need certain medicines like it did before.18 The arms and legs may not feel warm. Their heart might beat irregularly.18 The senses of sight and sound can change too.18

Breathing could become hard for cancer patients near death.18 They might have trouble coughing up mucus from their throat.18 They could go to the bathroom less, and not control their bladder or bowels.18 Their skin might feel cold or look different.18 When their life is about to end, they won’t be able to breathe, they’ll have a very weak heart, false pupils, and accidents with going to the bathroom.18


A cancer diagnosis can impact someone’s mood and behavior a lot. It might make them seem mean. They could feel angry or act in ways that seem not like them. This comes from how hard cancer is on both the body and the mind. Feelings of not being in control, fear, stress, and sadness can become too much to handle.19 Many people with cancer go through a lot like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety problems.19

Knowing why a cancer patient’s mood changes can help loved ones support them better. Understanding their struggles is key to providing the help they need.19 It’s also important to focus on helping cancer patients grow even through their tough times. Dealing with these feelings and accepting their illness can lower their distress.19 Many patients face mental issues like depression and anxiety. This can lead to more hospital visits.20

The road with cancer is tough for sure. But keeping hope alive, enjoying simple things, and getting expert help can make it easier. Addressing the reasons behind a patient’s ‘meanness’ is crucial. It allows family and friends to offer the right support. This support makes the cancer experience less hard, with better outcomes for everyone involved.


Why do cancer patients get mean?

Cancer brings a lot of changes. It can make people feel frustrated, angry, and distant. These feelings come from the hard times the disease puts them through. They might feel like they’re losing control or scared and stressed.

Why do cancer patients feel overwhelmed by their diagnosis?

Finding out you have cancer can be very overwhelming. It can feel like everything is out of your hands. You worry a lot about unknowns and can’t enjoy things like before. The big medical words and new routines just add to the confusion and stress.

What are some of the common fears and worries cancer patients experience?

People with cancer may worry a lot. They fear pain, not being able to help their family, and money problems. They might be afraid of losing their job or even dying. Getting the right info can help calm these fears.

How does the stress and anxiety of cancer treatment impact patients?

Treatment stress can be big. It’s not just the medical side but also insurance and getting to treatments. Not dealing with this stress well can slow down how your body heals.

Why do some cancer patients become “mean” or irritable?

Some cancer patients might act out because they feel like a burden. They avoid serious talks out of fear of hurting others. Unrealistic hopes after treatment can also make them distant.

How can cancer patients maintain hope and a positive outlook?

Survivor stories and staying close to hobbies help keep hope alive. So does keeping a daily routine and being close to nature and spirituality.

How do cancer patients deal with anger and resentment?

Under anger and resentment, there’s often fear or feeling helpless. It’s good to talk about these deeper feelings with loved ones or experts.

What are the signs of depression in cancer patients?

Depression’s signs include constant sadness, guilt, and not enjoying things. It can also show in sleep and appetite changes, body pains, and thoughts of suicide. It’s treatable, so getting help is really important.

How can cancer patients find gratitude and joy?

Finding joy in little things, staying close to what you love, and fixing important ties can bring a sense of joy and thankfulness, even while battling cancer.

Why do cancer patients feel lonely and distant from others?

Feelings of isolation can build because friends may not know how to help or they can’t do the things they used to. But finding a support group often helps them feel less alone.

What options are available for end-of-life care for cancer patients?

End-of-life care includes ways to manage pain and hospice support. These programs aim to keep patients comfy and make sure their last wishes are respected.

How can loved ones provide emotional support to cancer patients and caregivers?

Loved ones can lend an ear, respect the patient’s feelings and beliefs, and give a hand where it’s needed. It’s also important for caregivers to take care of themselves and get support when they need it.

How should parents talk to children about a family member’s advanced cancer?

Parents should keep talks honest and fit for the child’s age. Letting kids ask questions and assuring them they’ll be looked after, regardless of what happens, is key.

What is the process of dying from cancer?

The dying process from cancer can differ but often includes the disease spreading and affecting the body. This can lead to organ failure or problems from treatments, resulting in death.

Source Links

  1. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/feelings
  2. https://www.cancervic.org.au/get-support/living-with-cancer/emotions/emotions-overview.html
  3. https://cancer.ca/en/living-with-cancer/coping-with-changes/your-emotions-and-cancer
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573953/
  5. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/feelings/anxiety-distress-pdq
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968644/
  7. https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/201904/why-cancer-patients-push-loved-ones-away
  8. https://theoncologynurse.com/issue-archive/2020/december-2020-vol-13-no-6/18576-de-escalating-anger-in-patients-with-cancer
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356432/
  10. https://www.oncnursingnews.com/view/hope-gratitude-and-spirituality-what-they-mean-to-patients-with-cancer
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9739971/
  12. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer/care-choices/care-fact-sheet
  13. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/end-of-life-care/nearing-the-end-of-life/emotions.html
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10086361/
  15. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer/talking
  16. https://cancer.ca/en/living-with-cancer/coping-with-changes/talking-about-cancer/talking-to-children-about-cancer
  17. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/dying-with-cancer/last-few-weeks-and-days/final-days
  18. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/end-of-life-care/caregiving-at-end-of-life/what-to-expect-when-someone-is-near-death.html
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9104184/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8819216/