The Cleveland Clinic


Breast Cancer: Getting Support

Facing a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Your stress levels may skyrocket. You may worry about finances. And you may be asking yourself difficult questions, such as whether to write a living will. Education and supportive care can help you deal with the many issues and emotions you're facing.

What Causes Stress Among Breast Cancer Patients?

Stress is common among breast cancer patients. Stressors related to the disease may include the uncertainty of one's future, the unpredictability of disease, disability, and financial difficulties.

Common stress signals can include disturbed sleep, fatigue, body aches, pain, anxiety, irritability, tension, and headaches.

How Can I Reduce Stress?

Stress can build, influencing how you feel about life. Prolonged stress may lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and -- at times -- depression. The person with the illness is not the only one affected. Family members are also influenced by the health changes of a loved one. To reduce stress:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.

How Can I Learn To Relax?

There are a number of exercises that you can do to relax. These exercises include breathing, muscle and mind relaxation, relaxation to music, and biofeedback. A few that you can try are listed below. First, be sure that you have a quiet location that is free of distractions, a comfortable body position (sit or recline on a chair or sofa) and a good state of mind. Try to block out worries and distracting thoughts.

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