Carcinophobia – The fear of cancer

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The fear of contracting cancer can be a very real disorder.

Fear of cancer

What is Carcinophobia?

In spite of all the worldwide research on cancer, its early diagnosis and advanced treatment modalities, cancer is seen as a dreaded disease that spells nothing but doom. Do you ever find yourself seriously worrying that you might get cancer? Don’t panic. You are not alone.

The fear of cancer, or Carcinophobia, is a very real disorder that affects those who have had the disease in the past and even those whose relatives and friends have been afflicted with it. Although it’s incidence has reduced as compared to about 20 years ago, when knowledge and treatment of cancer was more limited, this social anxiety disorder continues to plague men and women around the world.

What causes Carcinophobia?

Fear of any disease is a normal phenomenon. But when this fear becomes a continuous panic that interferes in your daily routine, then it’s a problem.

The reason for this fear usually stems from some sort of close association with cancer. The person suffering from Carcinophobia may have undergone a biopsy in the past. Sometimes just seeing a close friend or relative suffer and/or ultimately die from cancer can instill the fear in you. Often times, people who have this disorder have seen the negative reactions of others to the disease and may have unconsciously begun to imitate them.

Sometimes Carcinophobia can become so extreme that it may lead to Agoraphobia, which is the fear of being outside or fear of being in a situation you cannot get out of.

Symptoms of Carcinophobia:

Different people show different symptoms of this disease. Some may start sweating and feeling nauseous when confronted with the fear of cancer, while others who have a more severe form of it, may have full-blown anxiety or panic attacks.

Other symptoms include dry mouth, heart palpitations, numbness, and the feeling of being trapped.

Treatment of Carcinophobia:

Fear of getting cancer is a psychological problem rather than a physiological condition. Talking to friends and family is the first step. They might be very helpful in relieving your stress and anxiety.

It is seen that we generally fear something we don’t have much knowledge about. So reading about cancer and it’s advanced treatment technologies might be very helpful in relieving this phobia. The fact is that modern medical science has made great advancements in the field, and cancer is no longer seen as a deadly disease.

Speaking with cancer survivors can also be helpful. Ultimately, it helps to have a positive attitude towards life and not spend it worrying about things that may or may not happen to you.

If none of the above works, medical help is always available. Consult a counsellor, psychologist or support group. Medical therapy with psychological counselling has been known to be very effective in the treatment of cancer phobia.

Reviewed by Dr. Abha Bang, Psychiatrist

Photograph by Bina Sveda, via