While your focus will be on your physical health and all your tests and treatments, it is important not to forget about your emotional, psychological and spiritual health. They can affect your physical health and play an important part in your recovery.
Have family members or friends help you get your house ready before you have surgery or chemotherapy. There are a lot of small adjustments that can make your life easier, such as:
Every person has a different way of handling news that a loved one has cancer. Many people react with shock, disbelief, and even anger when they first receive the news. Keep in mind that there is no "right way" for you or your family to feel about your diagnosis. Sharing and being open with one another is one of the best ways for families to deal with their feelings.
Many parents don't want to burden their children with worries and fears about their illness. They keep the truth from their children in hopes of sparing them some pain. But even the youngest of children can sense when something is wrong. Many parents choose to tell their children only what they feel their children really need to know. How much you tell depends upon a child's age and maturity and how much you feel your children can handle. Be prepared to offer your children a lot of reassurance.
Asking your family members for help during this time benefits you and them.
When you've been diagnosed with cancer, you want to concentrate on getting better and coping with your treatment. It's also a good idea to make some important decisions with your family and doctor while you are still feeling well. Things you may want to discuss include:
People diagnosed with cancer and their families face many challenges that may leave them feeling overwhelmed, afraid and alone. It can be difficult to cope with these challenges or to talk to even the most supportive family members and friends. If this is the case, you and your family may want to join a cancer support group. Cancer support groups can help you and your loved ones:
About 30 percent of women with breast cancer suffer from prolonged anxiety and depression, which are natural responses to the loss of a breast or fear of the disease. The fear of cancer reoccurring is also a natural and very powerful response. After a cancer experience, your sense of self is altered forever. You know that you are not protected from losing your health. You may feel fearful, anxious or uneasy for a long time after your last treatment. It is important to
deal with these feelings so that cancer doesn't rob you of living your life to the fullest. Here are a few helpful tips:
It is common for breast cancer patients to experience some form of depression during their diagnosis and treatment. This is called situational depression. If you feel you are becoming depressed, please tell your doctor, nurse or therapist. They are there to help you and can offer suggestions to get you through this difficult period.
Breasts symbolize many things in our society, such as femininity, nurturance, motherhood and sexuality. Losing a breast through mastectomy or having your breast change from a lumpectomy can affect your self-esteem and image as a sexual person. The treatments you undergo after surgery can also impact your sexuality.
Chemotherapy can have the most dramatic effects on a woman’s sexuality, including:
Despite exhaustion and fatigue from treatment and stress, between 30 and 50 percent of cancer patients report problems falling asleep. It may be helpful to:
There are many situations throughout your recovery process where medication may be warranted. Any symptom that is interfering with your quality of life should be discussed with your doctor or health care provider. These may include:
If your mother, sister, aunt or grandmother had breast or ovarian cancer, genetic testing is a way to determine if you or family members carry a gene mutation – an alteration in the genetic material – that increases the risk of these developing diseases. Some breast cancers, for instance, are caused by BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations. These are most often diagnosed before a woman reaches menopause around age 50.
Before taking the test, it is important to fully discuss the test and its possible implications with your doctor and a genetic counselor. If you decide to do the test, a small sample of your blood will be sent to a genetic laboratory. Your DNA will be studied to detect mutations or changes in the genes. A report of the findings will be sent to the doctor that ordered the test, and he or she will share the results with you.
Genetic testing may help you learn if you are at increased risk for ovarian cancer or a second breast cancer. However, having the gene for a specific cancer does not mean that you will develop that cancer. It only means that you may have a tendency toward developing the cancer and that the gene may be passed down to your children.
Health Insurance Concerns
Federal legislation went into effect in 1997 to prevent genetic testing from being used to deny women access to group health insurance. If you have concerns about this, please discuss them with your social worker who can guide you in the right direction.