One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and 40,000 women in the U.S. will die from the disease this year. It is no surprise that, when faced with this news, women possibly experience shock, fear, sadness, disbelief or other feelings of psychosocial distress. Many women are able to adjust to and manage the disease, survivorship and their “new normal.” Some women will experience times of persistent psychosocial distress and would benefit from interventions. Intervention is important because distress can interfere with a woman’s ability to cope with cancer treatment and can extend along the continuum from common feelings of vulnerability fear, and sadness, to true depression, anxiety, panic and feeling isolated.
Coping with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
- Learn about breast cancer at your own pace. Get information about clinical trials, treatment options and side effects. Doctors can make suggestions, but decisions should be made together.
- Seek professional help if you need help managing your issues with breast cancer and how to cope with your feelings.
- Talk to your doctor honestly about your breast cancer journey.
- Be patient. Coping with breast cancer requires time, acceptance, a fighting spirit and support.
- Lean on your network of family and friends. They can help:
- Lend support from diagnosis through treatment and beyond
- With day-to-day tasks
- Gather information for you about breast cancer
Coping with Fear of Recurrence
It is normal to have thoughts and concerns about recurrence (being re-diagnosed with breast cancer). Fears of recurrence often peak right after treatment, but they can happen at any time. You can take control of your fears and learn effective triggers and coping strategies to keep these fears from consuming you. Some of the strategies include:
- Get and stay informed. Learn about your cancer and risk of recurrence, continue your follow-up-care plan and take care of yourself.
- Remove any blame. Never blame yourself for your cancer diagnosis. Cancer does not choose to punish people and it doesn’t discriminate. Cancer can happen to anyone.
- Exercise. Talk to your doctor and begin an appropriate exercise program. It can improve your mood and make you feel healthy, confident and strong.
- Relax. Find ways to relax like yoga, meditation, prayer, etc.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Talk to family, friends or other survivors. Journal, craft or find creative ways to give voice to your emotions.
- Focus on the positive. Find ways to stay hopeful and use your energy to stay as healthy as possible.
- Control what you can. Empower yourself by taking an active role in your healthcare team.
Learn more about breast cancer recurrence: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FearofRelapse.html