Carcinophobia or Fear of Getting Cancer

You see it everywhere – articles and news reports that feature experts who talk about how they’ve just discovered that a particular environmental factor causes cancer or that exposure to particular sweeteners or preservatives will give you cancer. Additionally, celebrities keep cancer in the public eye by candidly discussing their cancer diagnoses or treatments in magazines and newspapers across the country. Did you ever get the idea that it is almost impossible to walk out the door without coming in contact with something that’s sure to cause a tumor? Even though it is said jokingly, people often remark that everything causes cancer nowadays. It’s no wonder, then, that people are beginning to fear getting cancer before they even develop it.

Carcinophobia, or the fear of getting cancer, typically affects those who have had the disease or have known people afflicted with it. Of course, it’s normal to experience fear of any kind but people with carcinophobia often take their fear to the extreme and when that fear impacts their everyday life it becomes a source for concern.

Of all the phobias that exist, the fear of getting cancer can be one of the most debilitating. Take a fear of heights in comparison: the person afflicted with this fear can avoid heights and continue about their day. But a person who suffers from carcinophobia carries their fear with them. For them, the slightest pain or the appearance of new mole or lump on the body is a guarantee of cancer. What follows is anxiety about everything associated with cancer: the possibility of painful treatments, loss of hair, spreading of the cancer, and death. They’re also bound to worry about how it will impact their personal lives. Who will take care of them while they’re sick? Who will take care of their family and children if they succumb to the disease? These concerns and many others often arise before they’ve even visited a doctor. Eventually, the fear can become so overwhelming that the person may refuse to leave their safe environment and may shun people because they might be “carrying” carcinogens.

The good news is that this fear of getting cancer, like any other phobia, is treatable. Like most things, we often fear what we don’t understand and it can be helpful for the person who is afraid of getting cancer to research the latest advancements in cancer treatment technologies. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help the person become aware of their unreasonable thoughts and fears so they can view the situation more realistically and react in a healthier way. If all else fails, psychological counseling combined with the use of anxiety disorders medications has shown great results in many people.

If you or someone you know suffers from a fear of getting cancer, please seek professional help before it impacts your life. Left untreated, carcinophobia can become a debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of the sufferer’s work, social, and home life.

For more information on carcinophobia and treatment for the fear of getting cancer, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. They can be reached by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

21 Comments
  1. Reply
    Monika

    I am a sufferer of this for last 4 years and my life has become hell. Please help

    • Reply
      Dr. Andrew Rosen

      Hi Monika, please call us at (561) 496-1094 and we’ll see how we can help.

      • Reply
        Mila

        Hai Dr.rosen im mila im 29years old.. And i have this certain type of fear for the past four years its started when i had my acid relfux my mind went wild that was the darkest day of my life. In my country in indonesia and especially in my hometown mentall health is still a taboo to talk about they are all consider mental health as a crazy.. So i wasnt talk about it much.. N then the anxiety comes and go but right now right at the momemt i writte this to you my fear are beyond me.. I read about acc cancer now i feel like i have one. What should i do doc.. Im a mother of 4 i need to stay focus isntead of sadd thinking about what happen next…

      • Reply
        JAMES CARLISLE

        Dr Rosen,
        Can you suggest anyone in the Atlanta area for me? As I get older this is becoming worse of an issue for me.

        Thanks
        James

      • Reply
        Ramya

        Hello ,
        I am sufferer for past 3 months , because my aunt died of cancer this three months made me to fell depressed and fear raised me like anything and even i had chest pain for 3days thinking of it.But now i am not afraid i am relaxed,but my question is with this three months of stress and anixety can lead me to cancer please reply

        • Reply
          Mohammed Khayat

          No, if you have a fear from cancer that doesn’t mean that you are going to get cancer.
          Cancer is something with cells functions, and it is separated completely from you psychological situation even if it lasted for 20 years. Trust me
          Be happy

  2. Reply
    Arun raj

    Sir I’m from India I got this worst fear after reading article that says anyone can get it anytime even with leading a healthy lifestyle even when your family tree don’t have it and after comparing this with my friends father who died of it even though he was a tea totaller sir now I’m sickened by this fear please council me through online please sir

  3. Reply
    Ria France

    I am she same and it has ruined my life. First it was HIV fear now cancer and I am almost to the place where I I do not leave my house.

  4. Reply
    Udit

    I m living at India , and I m suffering from carcinophobia from last 8 years..kindly help me

  5. Reply
    Greg

    I’ve noticed this fear the past year, dad passed of multiple myeloma and I’ve been a long term smokeless tobacco user for 20 plus years, I’ve lately been fearing oral cancer and it’s ruining my life, I’m afraid to go to the dentist, every day I’m panicking

  6. Reply
    Endat

    My husband having this problem..i have no idea how to help him..please help me..

  7. Reply
    Danielle Martinez

    The fear of getting cancer is ruining my life. The only time I feel ok is when I am working because I am busy and cant think about it. So I try and work 15 hours a day just to distract myself. I had surgery on my gallbladder about a year ago and since then it’s like someone flipped a switch and my whole life was turned upside down. I just recently got bloodwork done and my white blood cell count is low and now I’m freaking out that I have leukemia. I look up signs and symptoms of cancer daily. It’s a daily struggle just to be ok. I break down, I have very dark thoughts. I just want to be ok

    • Reply
      Kristen Patterson

      I can really relate to you. Being afraid of cancer is ruining my life. I agree with the work thing but lately it’s impacting my work too. I’m a HS counselor. Have you found anything to help? Maybe you’re doing better now. I just can’t think about anything else but what I read online and right now I think I have skin cancer. I’ve thought I have had many different types. I’m not sure what to do anymore. Sometimes I feel like it would be good just to get it and be done. I take meds, am in counseling and just finished dbt therapy. I’m not sure what else to do. Kristen

  8. Reply
    Jodi

    I have suffered with this for quite a while! If had totally overcome my life. I worry about everything my family comes on contact with that if is so overwhelming! And ever little pain or sickness in myself, my kids, husband, or family member, my first thought is please let it not be cancer! I amtrying to hide it from people, but it is hard! Please help.

  9. Reply
    Scared

    This fear had taken over my life. I can’t function.

  10. Reply
    Jennifer

    I have suffered with this for a long time, but mostly the last 3 years. Any changes in how my body feels freak me out, this worry is with me daily, it consumes my thoughts. My fear is affecting my quality of life. How do I get to a place where this fear doesn’t run my life??

  11. Reply
    Anna Smira

    I have the fear. It is awful. I have many physical symptoms that could be leukemia. I just want to know once and for all it isn’t that, but I live a daily worry.

    My step dad has cancer and all of this could have been started by that!

  12. Reply
    Nahid Borhani

    I suffer from cancerphobia more than 26 years, with every small symptom I think I have cancer, it is devastating, sometime it is intolerable I have horrific dreams I got cancer, please someone help me me

  13. Reply
    Paul

    I have this terrible fear. Had it for several years. My mind always goes to worst case scenarios. Its debilitating thinking about not being here for my kids. It does effect the quality of my life. Then I take the time to remember that god is in control and he promises to work things out for our good to those who believe. Trust in the lord with all your heart because He has you right where you need to be.

  14. Reply
    Jeffrey

    I have suffered from this fear for many years. Sometimes it is better, sometimes not. I go into panic mode every time I have to do blood work. I live in a state with a high cancer rate and I have had Hep B so I am especially fearful of liver cancer. This is no way to live.

  15. Reply
    Kathy

    I very much believe my mom is suffering from this and OCD. She has spend as long as I can remember doing things to avoid getting cancer- testing water before drinking it, taking a massive amount of vitamins, scrubbing veggies and fruit, washing meat, disinfecting things, picking through her food for questionable bits, etc… I also believe OCD as well – checking the burners on the stove over and over, checking the outlets to make sure nothing’s plugged in, hiding her valuables and thinking people saw her through her window, not believing that garage door is down when leaving the house and having to drive back to check, not trusting that her envelopes actually went in the mailbox, and on and on. My parents don’t believe that mental illness is a thing and my dad typically let’s my mom do what she wants. I’m told to be nice to my mom when she starts to panic about things. As if it’s my fault she’s panicking. Anyway, is there a way to get my.mom help when she and my dad think she’s normal or at least acts like she’s normal?

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