Harvard Mental Health Letter

Psychological challenges of surviving cancer

Transitions are particularly tough; some problems emerge at unexpected times.

About 11 million Americans alive today — one in 30 people — are either currently undergoing treatment for cancer or have done so in the past. The National Cancer Institute considers all to be cancer survivors. Many would attest that cancer is not only life-threatening, but also life-altering.

Cancer and its treatment sometimes leave scars and other physical changes that can have long-lasting effects. Even so, many cancer survivors remain psychologically healthy. Some are happy simply to be alive. Others have developed greater self-esteem, confidence, and resilience, as well as a stronger appreciation for day-to-day life after having faced a formidable disease.

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