Mental Health

Having Breast Cancer and Managing Mental Health:  It is important to be cognizant of mental health after diagnosis and during treatment.  While it is important to try to stay positive, sometimes the “over-pinking” of breast cancer or the fact that everyone is cheering you on towards health and may be solely focused on keeping you positive can tend to negate feelings that some wome have – feelings of sadness.  It is important to recognize that each woman’s journey is different and that being diagnosed with breast cancer can affect your mental health and that of your loved ones. From anxiety and worry about the future, to the stress of treatment, and fear of recurrence, many breast cancer patients and survivors develop anxiety or depression; and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  These symptoms can be short- or long-term.  Some women can begin to see the impact on their mental health at the onset of their breast cancer diagnosis. Other women may have pre-existing mental health conditions, which can make it harder for them to cope after a breast cancer diagnosis. Some women who undergo surgery for their breast cancer can experience depression and sadness as a result of substantial change in appearance through mastectomy. Mastectomies can decrease women’s body confidence, impact their relationships to their sexuality, and have a negative effect on overall mental health. In addition, weight loss or weight gain as a result of breast cancer treatment can also alter how a woman feels about herself, which could impact mental health as well. Also, women who are metastatic can have more acute anxiety and/or depression.

Managing mental health can make it challenging to do things that benefit your health, such as eating healthy foods, exercising, connecting with friends and family, and complying with medical treatment. However, the good news is that breast cancer and its emotional impact such as feelings of depression can lift over time, and the level of anxiety is likely to decrease.  However, it is important to note that if you feel anxious or depressed, ask your healthcare team for a referral to a mental health provider.  Taking care of your mental health should be a priority.

Staying as active as you can and focusing on healthy, eating including lots of fruits and vegetables can help you feel better and more relaxed. Also, reaching out to supportive intimate partners and family members, friends, or a faith-based group can increase breast cancer survivors’ overall mental well-being. Talk to a therapist, who can listen objectively and help you cope. In addition, you may consider a combination of group therapy, which allows women to share emotional support, and individual therapy, which helps women learn problem-solving skills and alter patterns of thinking. You should always communicate your moods and emotions with your doctor and healthcare team as they can connect you with the appropriate help. If all else fails, your doctor may recommend taking anti-depressant medications. There are a variety of effective medications available that you might be prescribed to address any underlying chemical components of your anxiety or depression.