Emotional aspects of breast cancer
Some amount of depression, anxiety, and fear is normal when breast cancer is a part of your life. Some people are affected more than others. But everyone can benefit from help and support from other people, whether friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counselors, or others.
You’ll probably be concerned that the cancer might come back, and you might find yourself thinking about death and dying. Maybe you’re more aware of the effects the cancer has had on your family, friends, and career. You may take a new look at your relationships with those around you. Unexpected issues might also cause concern. For instance, you might be stressed by financial concerns resulting from your treatment. You might also see your health care team less often after treatment and have more time on your hands. Any of these things might make you anxious.
Special issues women with breast cancer face
Many women with breast cancer face additional stressful issues. For example, you might have changes in your appearance as a result of breast cancer surgery. You may also have concerns about sexuality after breast cancer. For more on these topics, see “Body image and sexuality after breast cancer.”
For younger breast cancer survivors, changes in appearance and sexuality might be even more stressful. Some women might still be thinking about having a family, and might worry about how the cancer and its treatment might affect this. Others might have already started families and might worry about how this could affect them. For some women, chemotherapy may cause early menopause, which can be very distressing on its own.
Regardless of the changes you may experience, it's important to know that there is advice and support out there to help you cope.
Finding help and support
Almost everyone who is going through or has been through cancer can benefit from some type of support. You need people you can turn to for strength and comfort. Support can come in many forms: family, friends, cancer support groups, religious or spiritual groups, online support communities, or one-on-one counselors. What’s best for you depends on your situation and personality. Some people feel safe in peer-support groups or education groups. Others would rather talk in an informal setting, such as church. Others may feel more at ease talking one-on-one with a trusted friend or counselor. Whatever your source of strength or comfort, make sure you have a place to go with your concerns.
There are many support groups available, such as the American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery program. This program matches you up with a local volunteer who has had breast cancer. As someone who’s been through the experience, your Reach To Recovery volunteer can answer many of your questions.
The cancer journey can feel very lonely. You shouldn’t feel the need to try to deal with everything on your own, and your friends and family may feel shut out if you don’t include them. Let them in, and let in anyone else who you feel may help.
If you aren’t sure who can help, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and we can put you in touch with a group or resource that may work for you.
Last Medical Review: 09/25/2014
Last Revised: 05/04/2016