Carcinophobia (Fear Of Cancer)

The word Carcinophobia consists of two Greek words carcino and phobia. Carcino means cancer while phobia means fear. The phobia is related to a fear of loss of control, illness, and death.


There’s probably no one who wants to fall ill. Moreover, everyone fears deadly diseases including cancer. And there’s another bunch of people who morbidly fear that they themselves or their loved one could get cancer. Compared to normal anxiety, carcinophobia is an over-the-top fear.

A person with Carcinophobia is so extremely anxious that he or she may not even go out and constantly goes through panicky spells. In nearly all cases, the phobia is meaningless and poses no real risk of cancer in truth.

Symptoms of Carcinophobia

Someone with a fear of cancer will be constantly worrying about developing cancer even when there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason to worry. They could be excessively paranoid about developing cancer from various sources, including food, household chemicals, deodorants, plastics, second-hand smoke, clothing, air pollution and so on.

Even if there’s some justifiable risk from such sources, a person with Carcinophobia will try their hardest to avoid anything that poses the slightest possible risk of causing cancer. This may get very complicated since today there are lots of things being considered as possible risks of cancer all the time.

This can make one extremely paranoid and might also cause them to develop Agoraphobia (the phobia of open spaces).

An individual with Carcinophobia will usually be of a nervous disposition and could be a hypochondriac. They could also fear that they’re constantly sick and anything slightly off physically will immediately be assumed to be cancer-forming. They could constantly visit the doctor or avoid seeing the doctor altogether depending on how their phobia develops.

There are a number of situations that might cause a person with Carcinophobia to suffer a panic attack. Some unknown health concerns, hearing about a loved one developing cancer, or even developing cancer themselves might send them into an extreme panic.

Major symptoms that point to Carcinophobia include:

  • An individual persistently worrying about their health
  • Intense and constant fear of cancer (e.g. fearing that you or your family member would get cancer)
  • Going for thorough health checkups to ensure that they’re healthy
  • Upset or distress almost all the time about getting ill or dying
  • Panic attacks along with physical signs like sweating, shivering, fainting, dizziness, dry mouth, increased heartbeat, muscle tension, feeling confused, vomiting or nausea, abdominal discomfort, and cold or hot flushes

Carcinophobia can make someone constantly depressed and worried about their health. It can interfere with one’s social and family relationships, and also disrupt their professional life. If you’ve had these symptoms for at least 6 months and your daily life has been disrupted, you’ll need to see a doctor.

Causes of Carcinophobia

There is no doubt that cancer is scary and can make anyone feel anxious, but something could happen that causes an individual to become extremely anxious about this disease. A person watching someone so close to them suffer from cancer or even die as a result might cause them to develop Carcinophobia. This would be especially traumatic if it happened to the individual when they were little.

Another reason why a person might have Carcinophobia is if they themselves had cancer and were extremely traumatized by the whole experience. This could make them understandably anxious about ever going through the same experience again.

The media is another possible trigger for Carcinophobia as well. With news outlets continually reporting about the newest cancer cause, whether based on fact or simply to make headlines, some people may become scared of developing cancer from various sources. Movies also often depict people suffering during chemotherapy or dying from cancer. This can strongly instill the fear of cancer into some people’s minds.

Kids can also learn to fear cancer from their parents if the parents themselves have Carcinophobia.

Carcinophobia treatment

Carcinophobia can be treated with a series of medicines and psychotherapies. However, it’s important to note that medications aren’t the major remedy for any kind of anxiety or fear because they only lessen the anxiety but don’t resolve the fundamental causes of a fear.

Cognitive behavior therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, is the leading psychotherapy route that could help deal with any anxiety or phobia. Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on understanding the bad images and thoughts related to anxiety. The therapist conducts various talking activities with the patient and lets them share their thoughts. Using this, the mental health professional counsels the patient and helps them spot their cycle of negative thoughts, help challenge those thoughts and instill a more balanced, emotional response. The main aim of cognitive behavior therapy is to replace negative thoughts and feelings with more rational and positive ones.

At the same time, the therapist can also guide the patient through relaxation techniques, meditation, and mind visualization to quiet down their fearful senses.

Traditional hypnosis

Traditional hypnosis applies direct, post-hypnotic directives to get rid of a fear. It can be extremely effective when one’s open to it. This conventional technique, however, is often ineffective as people usually resist direct suggestions and resist what they’re told.


Hypnotherapy is another very effective treatment for cancer phobia. It’s been shown to produce long-lasting results and is safe and non-invasive too. There’s another advanced type of hypnotherapy known as Ericksonian Hypnosis, which sends indirect suggestions through metaphors or stories to the more rational patients with an intense fear of cancer.

Neuro-linguistic programming

This form of therapy is a modern technique of treating various kinds of fears. It helps to reprogram one’s unconscious mind to change the thought process in order to learn not to be afraid of cancer.


Medicines can also help to control Carcinophobia symptoms. Commonly used medications include anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicines. These help to alter brain chemicals like Serotonin, which helps to regulate one’s mood.

Preventing Carcinophobia

The problem of Carcinophobia lies with negative thought patterns which causes one’s imagination to exaggerate the fear of cancer.

That said, the patient should try relaxation techniques to relax their body and mind, allowing their subconscious to be receptive to positive imagery and suggestions which will soon remove negative patterns of thought, which build and sustain Carcinophobia.

Another way to prevent Carcinophobia is to take steps with regard to your diet, lifestyle, etc, to reduce the risk of developing cancer. This can include avoiding smoking, staying away from direct sunlight, eating healthily, drinking in moderation and so on.

This way, you’re less likely to have the fear of cancer.