Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis
Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. You might find several different feelings come up when you’re told you have cancer — it’s not uncommon to feel confused, angry, afraid, guilty, and numb. But remember that having some or all of these feelings is healthy and normal. Each individual reacts in their own way, and experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. If you need guidance navigating the complex emotions that come up with such a diagnosis, here are five tips for helping you cope better:
1. Share your feelings
Talking about your feelings isn’t always easy, especially after a breast cancer diagnosis. But talking to friends and family can help you process your emotions and feel better supported. If you need extra support during this time, consider reaching out to a mental health therapist who can help you deal with feelings and thoughts as they come up and learn healthy coping strategies.
2. Reach out for support
Don’t be afraid to seek support as you navigate your diagnosis and treatment. Be specific about the kind of support you need. For example, you can ask loved ones to go grocery shopping or drive you to your next medical appointment. This gives people a clear way to help.
3. Prioritize self-care
Throughout the treatment process, which can include surgery and/or chemotherapy, it’s vital that you incorporate self-care into your daily life, which can look like many different things. For instance, some women feel uncomfortable with their appearance, but exploring breast prostheses and wigs can help them to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
4. Get all the information
Knowing all the basic facts about breast cancer and preparing ahead of time for medical appointments can help you stay informed and feel in control. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your care team to ask essential questions about your treatment plan and clarify anything you don’t understand.
5. Allow yourself to rest
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause fatigue, nausea, and pain, along with other side effects. As a result, your body may have reduced capacity. During treatment, allow yourself to rest as much as possible and give yourself permission to change plans as needed — you might find that your energy levels are different than before starting treatment, and that's okay.
Connect with your care team
Remember that your team of doctors, nurses, and social workers are valuable resources of support as you cope with a breast cancer diagnosis and can help you get connected to support groups and individual counseling as needed.
- "Breast Cancer: Coping With Your Changing Feelings," CancerCare, n.d.
- "Coping with Breast Cancer," Cancer Research UK, n.d.