Coping with Breast Cancer Emotionally
Dealing with your emotions
There’s no right or wrong way to feel after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
You’ll probably go through many emotions, from fear, shock and anger to disbelief, sadness and numbness.
Your emotions may change from day to day or even hour to hour. It’s usual to have times when you feel very low followed by times when things seem more positive.
The days and weeks immediately after a diagnosis can be particularly emotional and feel overwhelming.
Many people start to feel a bit calmer or less anxious once they have been told about their treatment plan.
Things you can try that may help you cope
- Think about how you coped with previous trauma or stress – you could try using these methods again now
- Use your breast care nurse – they can help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options and support you during your treatment and beyond
- Be kind to yourself – it may help to take time to rest, eat healthily, keep active and, when you can, do something you enjoy
- Talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling
Coping with Breast Cancer Emotionally
If you’re feeling overwhelmed
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It can be hard to think straight or carry out normal everyday activities. Some people have physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea or difficulty sleeping.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can help to talk to your GP. They can offer support and medication that can help in the short term.
Look after your mental health
Stress and anxiety
It’s common to feel stressed and anxious after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Some people experience anxiety for the first time. Others may have had anxiety in the past, and their cancer diagnosis can make their anxiety worse. There are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Find out more about stress and cancer.
Low mood and depression
Most people experience low moods and sadness when they’re diagnosed. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis can trigger depression. Find out more about coping with emotional, mental health and mood changes.
Talking to family, friends and children
If you’re finding it difficult to cope emotionally, you might want to talk to friends or family members about how you’re feeling.
Dealing with isolation
Feeling lonely or isolated is very common. You may feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by family and friends. If they haven’t experienced cancer themselves, you might feel like they don’t understand what you’re going through.
Connecting with people who understand
Finding out that you have breast cancer can make you feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and alone. Suddenly having to learn about complex medical treatments and trying to choose the best one can also be stressful during this time.
American Cancer Society's Reach To Recovery program has been helping people cope with their breast cancer experience – as early as the first possibility of a diagnosis and continuing for as long as breast cancer remains a personal concern to them.
As breast cancer survivors, our volunteers give patients an opportunity to express feelings, talk about concerns, and ask questions of someone who has been there. Most importantly, Reach To Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer.
The Reach To Recovery mobile app is available in Appstore and Playstore.
Coping with life after treatment
Finishing your hospital-based treatment can feel like a real achievement. But many people find it difficult to adjust to life after treatment.
You may find it useful to join Cancer Survivors Network, an online community where cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers can connect with others impacted by cancer and share information and support through their discussion boards, chat room, and private messages. CSN is available 24/7 for members who support and inspire one another, share personal experiences, and offer practical tips for dealing with the side effects of cancer and its treatment.
Read information on life after treatment.
Find out how others have coped
Some people find it helpful to read stories of others who have been affected by breast cancer.
You can find many personal stories on Cancer Survivors Network, CaringBridge and Reach To Recovery.