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Coping with Breast Cancer

“You have breast cancer.”

These are words no woman wants to hear, but if you did, what would you do? If you react with disbelief, anger, anxiety, resignation and then acceptance, you are not alone. Many women experience these feelings, as well as shock, fear, guilt, sadness, grief and depression. Going through a wide range of emotions is perfectly normal and each person will handle them in different ways. The key to dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis is to manage these emotions, rather than letting them manage you. Here are a few tips for coping with breast cancer.

Learn about the disease

Learning about breast cancer can help you better understand the type of cancer you have, treatment options and chances for recovery. Knowing what you are up against can lessen fears and give you a sense of control over your treatment.

Talk about it

Many women find that talking to people, including family, friends or other breast cancer survivors, about their feelings provides much needed emotional support. If you are not the talkative type, try keeping a journal. Working through your feelings about cancer can help you maintain a positive attitude and better handle stress.

Take care of yourself

Find something you enjoy doing, like watching a movie, taking a hot bath, or reading a book. Pay attention to your physical needs and get enough sleep, eat right and exercise (if you feel up to it and your doctor says you can).

Ask for help

If you can’t get the housework done, either let it go or ask a friend or relative to help you. Most people will gladly pitch in to help with specific tasks, so don’t be afraid to ask them to pick something up at the grocery store or watch the kids so you can go to a doctor’s appointment.

Seek spiritual support

Many women find that talking with a pastor, rabbi or other religious leader can provide comfort and guidance in dealing with the challenge of breast cancer. Reciting prayers, meditating or reading inspirational books may help you feel more at peace.

Just say “no”

Set limits for yourself if you begin to feel overwhelmed by work, household duties or social commitments. If you don’t feel like returning phone calls, volunteering at your child’s school or coordinating the office holiday party, that’s okay. People will understand.

Coping with breast cancer can seem like an uphill battle, especially if you feel alone. That is why it is important to develop a support system of family and friends to help reduce anxiety and lessen depression. But if you need professional help, don’t be afraid to ask.

Your doctor can help if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty eating or sleeping
  • Constant crying
  • Ongoing lack of interest in normal activities
  • Feelings of panic

The emotional stress of dealing with breast cancer can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to manage it alone. Talk with your doctor or visit the American Cancer Society for information about support groups and programs in your area.

Find an Oncologist

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Breast Cancer Quiz

How much do you know about breast cancer? Could you be at risk?