Breast Cancer and Coping With Stress

Medically Reviewed on 5/4/2023
Breast Cancer and Coping With Stress
Breast cancer can cause significant amounts of stress and anxiety due to pain, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, and other physical symptoms

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

The stress of dealing with breast cancer can build, and these negative emotions may take a major emotional toll on the outcome of cancer treatment. Education and supportive care can help you deal with the many issues and emotions you're facing.

What is the most typical emotional response of a breast cancer patient?

Breast cancer can cause significant amounts of stress and anxiety due to pain, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, and other physical symptoms.

During and after treatment, 40%-80% of people experience fatigue, anxiety, and depression which can persist for years even after therapy, reducing the quality of life and contributing to stress.

Stress is both a risk factor for and a consequence of breast cancer, and it is crucial to manage the condition before it worsens.

How can I stop breast cancer anxiety? 8 coping strategies

The best way to deal with stress is to develop coping strategies that can help you quiet your mind and prepare for what lies ahead.

1. Exercise

Exercise is a well-known stress reliever that helps relieve tension in your body and keeps your mind busy. It not only helps manage the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, but it also helps battle fatigue and improves sleep. Even a brief stroll or yoga session can be beneficial.

2. Make time for yourself

Engaging in your favorite hobbies, going out for lunch, watching a movie, or doing something else you enjoy can help you relax and offers you a break from your usual routine. This can help distract you from negative thoughts and emotions.

3. Practice meditation

Practicing meditation can help you clear your mind and teach you how to regain control of your feelings. By allowing yourself to be mindful of your thoughts and emotions, meditation can help you focus on the positive and reduce stress.

4. Try breathing techniques

Stress and anxiety can be relieved by training your breathing. Breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, then breathe out slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat 10 times. After a month of regular practice, this can help you relax your body and mind.

5. Talk about your feelings

People who can recognize and express both positive and negative emotions are less likely to feel overwhelmed, alone, and anxious after a cancer diagnosis. Instead of denying or ignoring what you are dealing with, accept your feelings and share them with people you trust. You will be more capable of coping with cancer stress if you work through your emotions and seek the support of others who are eager to listen.

6. Give and receive physical affection

Physical affection makes people feel loved, wanted, and safe. Along with the emotional benefits, giving and receiving affection can bring about physiological changes that can alleviate stress.

7. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy emphasizes helping you change negative thought and behavior patterns and find solutions to problems that may be limiting your ability to cope with stress.

8. One-on-one counseling

An experienced mental health counselor can help you understand and examine your emotions and provide you with strategies that can help you manage feelings of anger, worry, and sadness associated with your cancer diagnosis.

Although dealing with breast cancer can be overwhelming at times, mental health experts, social workers, and other professionals can help you develop coping skills and find resources that can make dealing with your condition easier.


Breast Cancer Awareness: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment See Slideshow

What types of help are available?

There are many sources of help available to provide support for patients and their families. Among them are:

Social Workers

Social workers are just one part of the caregiving team who can offer treatment in a compassionate setting. They can help you and your family discuss any concerns about your diagnosis, treatment, or personal situation.

Social workers can provide education, counseling regarding lifestyle changes, and referrals to community or national agencies and support groups. Your social worker can also help your family find temporary lodging in your community, provide information about community resources, and help you with any other needs.

Individual counseling

Sometimes people have problems that are better addressed in a one-on-one atmosphere. By participating in individual counseling, you may feel more comfortable expressing sensitive or private feelings you have about your illness and its impact on your lifestyle and relationships.

Counseling services can help patients and their families discuss issues of concern and develop and enhance coping abilities. In addition, mental-healthcare providers can create a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control over your life and improve your quality of life, something everyone deserves. If necessary, medicine to treat depression may be prescribed.

Support groups

Support groups are a very useful sharing experience. They provide an environment where you can learn new ways of dealing with your illness.

Sometimes, others who have been through similar experiences can explain things differently than your healthcare providers. You may also want to share approaches you've discovered with them. And you will gain strength in knowing that you are not facing hardships alone.

Remember that others may share information or experiences that do not apply to you. Never replace your physician's advice with that given to another patient.

The American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program offers special help to breast cancer patients. Trained volunteers, who have had breast cancer themselves, visit patients at the doctor's request to lend support. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 for more information.

Financial counseling

A financial counselor can answer questions you may have about financial issues related to your medical care.

What if I become unable to make decisions about my health care?

You may want to consider advance directives, such as living wills and durable power of attorney.

The living will exercises a patient's right to refuse or accept medical treatment that artificially prolongs his/her life and provides clear instructions regarding the patient's choice of extended medical care.

This document is prepared while the patient is fully competent, in case he/she becomes unable to make this decision at a later time.

The durable power of attorney for healthcare is the right of patients to appoint another person to speak for them if they become incapable of expressing their medical treatment preference. An attorney should devise this document so that it conforms to state laws and court precedents.

Should I write a will?

No one likes to think about his or her own mortality, but everyone should have a will to ensure that those who survive you will know how to carry out your wishes. This document should be prepared with your attorney.

What should family members and friends keep in mind?

The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is a time of stress and may be difficult for family and friends. Here are some tips for family and friends of someone diagnosed with breast cancer:

  • Feel free to ask the doctor questions if you accompany your loved one to her appointments.
  • Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behavior and mood. Medications, discomfort, and stress can cause her to become depressed or angry.
  • Encourage your loved one to be as active and independent, as possible, to help them regain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.
  • Be realistic about your own needs. Be sure you are sleeping enough, eating properly, and taking some time off for yourself. It is hard to offer much help when you are exhausted. If you take care of your needs, it may be easier to meet the needs of your loved one.
  • Don't hesitate to ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help.
Medically Reviewed on 5/4/2023
Image Source: iStock image

10 Ways to Manage Stress to Reduce the Spread of Cancer.

Stress reduction strategies in breast cancer: review of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic based strategies.