The Emotional Impact of Breast Cancer
October 2, 2014
By Staci Lee Schnell, M.S., C.S., LMFT
Many women with breast cancer face emotional issues during and after their treatments. Anxiety, depression and fear are often evident. They may worry that the cancer will return, be concerned about their physical changes, or they may be concerned about the impact of their diagnosis on their family, social, or work life. The physical, emotional, and social effects of the disease can seem overwhelming.
Fear of recurrence is an extremely common and normal. Some become hyper-vigilant in looking for any sign that the cancer may have returned. They may second-guess and worry about every symptom. Discussing one’s fears with a physician or therapist can be helpful.
Breast Cancer survivors typically report some level of emotional distress during their treatment. If the physical side effects are life altering, it is normal to feel sadness or anger. Grieving the loss of a breast or breasts is part of the emotional healing process.
The cancer experience can impact self-esteem and body image. Physical changes such as hair and weight loss, or the loss of one or both breasts can leave one feeling like they have lost themselves.
Family support can be critical in emotional healing. Individual as well as couple and family therapy is recommended and beneficial for all those impacted. Medical Family Therapy significantly enhances treatment for major and chronic illness such as Breast Cancer.
Cancer has been known to cause some to feel isolated or to withdraw from social interactions. Sometimes social supports are unable to provide the kind of help one may need or want. A support group can be extremely beneficial.
Some Breast Cancer patients develop a sense of helplessness or hopelessness when their stress becomes overwhelming or they are physically feeling bad. Those able to utilize some of the strategies and techniques listed below have lowered their Anxiety and Depression levels, leading them to feel less overwhelmed.
o Stress Management
o Cancer Education
o Support Groups
o Healthy Diet
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/morewaysacshelpsyoustaywell/breastcancer
National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast