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.

Dr. Andrew Rosen PHD, ABPP, FAACP is a Board-Certified Psychologist and the Founder and Director of The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, as well as, the Founder of The Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services.

47 Responses

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

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

      1. 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…

        1. Hi mila. I have the same problem and it’s getting worse. Can we talk? I am sally and 31 years old.

      2. 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.


      3. 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

        1. 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

          1. I have suffered for 23 years. And so many people say, if you worry about it you will get it. . . . I can’t tell you how your message has made me feel a bit better. Thank you so much

  2. 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

      1. My sister dies of ovarian cancer it was horrific and such a shock i worry everyday and fear cancer
        Now my dad has cancer and i have the brca 1 mutation .. i am do worried that i will one day get cancer

  3. 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.

    1. This article sums up my condition entirely. My brother died from melanoma at 36. A couple of years later I was the one at the dermatologist being examined, and a misdiagnosis pinged me with the disease. After the second opinion came in that it was not, in fact melanoma- I haven’t been able to shake the fear that they missed something. I’m petrified of dying and leaving my children behind, and I’m not ready to leave this life that I feel so blessed with. Now I have pain in my breast, a small lump, and I’ve already made a doctor appointment to have it checked. I’m up in the middle of the night crying because I’m so certain that I am going to be told that I have metastatic cancer, and that my prognosis is grim… but you know, I’m praying it’s all in my head. The fear is real nonetheless.

  4. 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

  5. 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

    1. 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

      1. Hi Kristen,
        Your experience sounds a lot like mine. Did you receive help?

        Thank you!

    2. I am exactly the same. Although you are aware that low white cells is most probably a sign of infection, you have been on antibiotics, it is your normal reading. . BUT for 5mins we feel happier, then slowly all the bad thoughts creep back. I am trying to get help which is why I Am on google to see the best way to do it. All we are achieving is wasting our life and not being happy. . . . I’ve had enough. At 65, I want some happy times. Good luck to you.

    3. Hi Danielle
      I hope you got over your fears. I am 61 and I’ve lost family and friends due to cancer and I worry all day every day about it. The only time I don’t worry is as you said when I’m busy but because I am semi retired now I have so much time on my hands. with every ache pain I get I’m certain I’ve got cancer. I too had my gallbladder removed three weeks ago which has caused additional pain which gives me more and more anxiety. I am thinking of getting touch with my doctor Hoping I can be referred. This is such a miserable way to live your life

  6. 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.

  7. 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??

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 help when she and my dad think she’s normal or at least acts like she’s normal?

  13. I am terrified of cancer and I have been diagnosed with high risk HPV and I now predict my death I hate my life

    1. Hi Audrey,
      I am sorry you feel this way. If you have regular Pap smears and screenings you should be fine. Even if cancer was to be found in you a hysterectomy or radiation, chemo, etc. could be done to help you and certainly prevent your death. Eighty percent of sexually active people have HPV, most naturally fight it off within two years. It is a small percentage of people who have HPV remain with and an even smaller who develop cervical cancer from it. I would suggest routine screenings and to stop smoking.

  14. I have unknowingly lived with this my entire life (51 years) due to losing my sister to leukemia when I was four. Now, I have risked my health my not eating properly so I am suffering from anemia. Most likely a result of my poor eating habits, but drs are sending me right directly into my fear but suggesting that it could be cancer. No one knows I suffer from this fear..and now my dr is sending me right into the Source of my fear, not knowing my history, my depression, or the fact that I just have not taken care of myself because I didn’t really care. Help..what do I do.. the drs are just filling my with my biggest fear now.

  15. I’m obsessed with pancreatic cancer because someone I know was just diagnosed…I have the same symptoms… before that it was a brain tumor…I don’t even make long term plans anymore…I’m 62 and should be enjoying my retirement, but I’m miserable

  16. I too need help for the same. Suffering from 4 years. Will be very obliged for your help.

  17. I also suffer from this fear after watching my husband suffer and die of pancreatic cancer. We have two teens and I worry about them having to watch another parent go through this. Its constant. I went to counseling and started anxiety meds. Both helped a lot. Prayer helps. Having a plan for the kids if something does happen helps. Reading, working, exercising all help.

  18. I have this bad also. I have known so many people that have had cancer and died including my dad. I had breast cancer in 2016 and it’s worse since then. Every mammogram I have I think is back and I also worry about other things I might have going on in my body!! It is a miserable way to live!

    1. Hi I have just been diagnosed with high riskHpv after an awful relationship my life is a living hell I’m 61 and I just want to move forward please help

      1. Hi Audrey,

        Please contact us through the contact page to learn more about the options and support available.

  19. I suffer from health anxiety. Only my mom and husband (and probably my teenage daughters know.) A lot of it is focused on cancer. Right now I can’t stop thinking I have ovarian cancer. I have wasted an entire month worrying about this. I can’t stay in the moment at all. My mind is consumed with catastrophic thoughts. I had an ultrasound on Thursday and the tech gave me mixed messages. My doctor had not read the results when I called on Friday. I just want to relax and enjoy my weekend but I can’t. Please help!

    1. Hi Ann,

      Please contact us through the contact page to learn more about the options and support available.

  20. Currently 4 people in my family have cancer. 3 first cousins in their early 50’s and my sister in law, who is also in her early 50’s. Two of my cousins have been given a prognosis of maybe a year with treatment. Needles to say my fear has taken over my life lately.

    1. Hi Rachelle,

      Please contact us through the contact page to learn more about the options and support available.

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