Coping with your diagnosis
It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of breast cancer, both practically and emotionally. At first, you may feel scared or numb, or perhaps upset and confused. Or you may feel that things are out of your control. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens.
How breast cancer can affect you physically
Breast cancer and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Most women will have surgery, which can affect the shape of one or both breasts and cause scarring. Such body changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends. The surgery may cause ongoing discomfort or soreness for some women.
Some hormone therapy treatments can cause aching in the joints or bones. If you have this, let your doctor or nurse know so that they can prescribe painkillers for you. Another problem you may have to cope with is feeling very tired and lethargic some of the time, especially for a while after treatment or if the breast cancer is advanced.
A review of studies about exercise after cancer treatment reported in February 2012. It found that appropriate exercise had healthy effects on the body and helped women to feel better after breast cancer treatment. It also helped to reduce tiredness (fatigue) and depression for some women. If you are interested in exercising it is important to speak to your cancer specialist or breast care nurse.
If you are having a sexual relationship, one or all of these changes may affect your sex life.
Coping practically with breast cancer
As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of breast cancer brings, you may also have to work out how to manage practically. There may be money matters to sort out.
Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. Do ask for help if you need it though. Your doctor or specialist nurse will know who you can contact to get some help. They can put you in touch with professionals who are specially trained in supporting people with cancer. These people are there to help and want you to feel that you have support. So use them if you feel you need to.
You may need to have access to support staff, such as a breast care nurse or dietician. Social workers can help you with information about your entitlement to sick pay and benefits. If you live alone, a social worker may be able to help by organising convalescence when you first go out of hospital.
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