According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are 252,710 estimated new cases of breast cancer for 2017. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be one of the most distressing experiences that a woman can experience. It can affect a woman’s psychological, social, physical, and spiritual well-being. A cancer diagnosis often results in unwanted intrusive thoughts about cancer, emotional reactions and psychological challenges, such as anxiety, hopelessness and despair, fear of dying, sense of lonesomeness, and sexual and body-image problems. A cancer diagnosis can also result in change in relationships and a change in a woman’s life and overall decrease in the quality of life. The use of coping strategies is recommended to empower a woman who has received a cancer diagnosis and to support psychological adjustment to the illness and to the treatment-related complications.
Some of the most common and helpful coping strategies include:
1. Seeking social support from family, friends, breast cancer survivors, paraprofessionals and professionals.
2. Seeking and utilizing religious strategies to cope with distressing thoughts and emotions such as talking to a spiritual leader, reading religious material and participating in religious services.
3. Expressing emotions and engaging in emotion-based coping skills including identifying, recognizing and verbalizing range of emotions, using mindfulness and relaxation strategies to cope with those emotions and/or seeking support from a mental health professional.
4. Learning more about breast cancer can also help with making better informed choices – options include reading publications by reputable sources including Susan G. Komen and Cancer Care and attending workshops.
5. Problem-solving current and future challenges can also be helpful.
• Getting facts about your condition.
• Reviewing your goals and priorities.
• Consider how a diagnosis can impact your finances.
6. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve energy level including maintaining healthy nutrition, getting adequate rest and participating in enjoyable activities.
The diagnosis also affects Patient’s family and caregivers. Family members may also share similar emotions including shock, sadness, fear, anger and denial.
Strategies that family members and caregivers can utilize to cope with their loved ones diagnosis include:
1. Family members and caregivers are also encouraged to seek social support from extended family members, friends, church and community including paraprofessionals and professionals.
2. Family members and caregivers are also recommended to learn more about breast cancer diagnosis in order to support their loved ones with making most informed decisions.
3. It is recommended to talk to children about the diagnosis in a way that is appropriate for their age and development as children may fill the gaps with their imagination.
4. It is recommended for children to be involved in decision-making regarding diagnosis and for their questions and emotions to be validated and addressed.
5. It is recommended to look out for signs of distress in children at home and at school.
It is important to note that the psychological and social factors can persist even after diagnosis is gone.