Breast Cancer and Mental Health
A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can bring a mixture of emotions, including anxiety and depression. Taking care of your mental health can support your treatment and help you feel better physically.
Your Emotions Matter
Feel your feelings—you have a right to mourn your losses—but remember, you are more than your cancer. Be gentle with yourself. Look for ways to feel good inside and out. There are many options available to help you: prescription medication, counseling, acupuncture, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques and physical therapy, among others.
Avoid the “be positive” trap. It’s normal to have bad days. But, if you find that your anxieties, worries or fears are interfering with your day-to-day activities or sleep habits, talk to your doctor.
Treatment Side Effects Can Affect Your Mood
Breast cancer treatment can bring side effects such as insomnia, memory changes and mood swings. Hormone level changes can influence your emotions, and weight gain can be discouraging. Some women self-blame while others feel punished.
Side effects may continue after treatment, when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can trigger the emotions you experienced at diagnosis or during treatment. All of these feelings are normal. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help.
Fear of Recurrence
Fear of recurrence (cancer coming back) is common and expected. Every ache and pain may cause you to think, “Is my cancer back?” There are ways to ease your fears.
- Accept your emotions. Talk about your fears with a healthcare provider, licensed mental health professional, trusted friend or other survivors.
- Practice mindfulness or meditation. Awareness in the moment often helps reduce anxiety, stress and fear of recurrence.
- Take control of your health. Ask your doctor for a written follow-up care plan, including what exams you need in the future and how often you should have them.
- Recognize important indicators. Ask your doctor for a list of symptoms you should report to him/her in between check-ups, such as new lumps, bleeding or pain.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. getting enough exercise, sleep and eating a healthy diet.
- Join a support group for young breast cancer survivors. Getting to know other cancer survivors will help you feel less alone as you learn how they are coping with the same worries.
Mental Health Resources
Remember, you are not alone. Our Face 2 Face networks offer opportunities to connect with other young women in your community. And, our Peer Mentor program is a great way to exchange advice, understanding and support over the phone. Advice and perspective from our audio archives and Survivor Stories can help, too. Check out our audiocasts on yoga, complementary therapies and stress management.
Don’t be shy about seeking out mental health professionals for support. You won’t need it forever, but it can help during this time.
There are resources out there to help you. The Georgetown University's School of Nursing & Health Studies put together a comprehensive guide for patients and caregivers on managing mental health after a cancer diagnosis. It identifies signs of emotional distress and offers tips for navigating these concerns.
Take care of yourself. You deserve it!
Connect with Others
Find women who know what it’s like to face breast cancer at a young age. The YSC community makes it easy to find and connect with other young survivors and co-survivors.