Breast cancer and emotions

The diagnosis of a cancer is such a major blow that it causes changes in all areas of life, forcing you to leave the vital project and do things that were not planned, such as going to multiple doctors, tests and treatments that place the person in a situation of uncertainty, insecurity and feeling of loss of control.

In addition, breast cancer has an impact on one’s identity, self-concept and self-esteem, due to the changes it generates in body image, also affecting the female, social, maternal, sexual role that causes different emotions and can cause alterations. In social relationships.

All the emotions that appear before a diagnosis of breast cancer are understood as a adaptive emotional reaction; that is, a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. These intense emotions help to assimilate the diagnosis, to face the situation and to realize what we need.

So emotions are our allies, as they facilitate awareness of needs, help mobilize energy for coping and allow others to communicate what we need.

What is normal to feel?

  • Before the diagnosis: confusion, anguish, avoidance and surprising calm, sadness feeling that it is not real, anger.
  • Before the treatment: anxiety, doubts, indecision, worry, apathy related to the physical state.
  • At the end of the treatment: discouragement, anxiety, anger, insecurity for having been going to so many medical appointments and now not having me so controlled, feeling of physical downturn for having been all the previous period in the effort and in the active fight, feeling that you are worse now than during the medical process.

These emotions are very different, but they all come within normal, are expected and it is usual that they are a period of time and remit later.

What can help during the medical process ?

  • Identify my emotions, give me permission to feel them and try to understand what they are transmitting to me.
  • Give me permission to communicate my emotions or thoughts to whomever I choose and at the time I choose.
  • Focus on the here and now, on the stage I am in and the immediate objective.
  • Continue with vital projects and rewarding activities as long as my physical condition allows.
  • Participate actively in the medical process, ask for the kind of help I need from my relatives, ask my specialist for the information that interests me, get involved in decision-making…

When to ask for an evaluation with a mental health specialist?

  • When the intensity, frequency Y duration of the emotional episodes are excessive and I can’t relieve them; for example, if I cry and then feel relieved, it is good for me to cry; but if I cry for hours, I can’t get over it and it doesn’t relieve me, I’m having a hard time managing it. Or with anger, if I am irritable, it is normal, everyone needs their space and if it helps me to reflect and then resume the relationship with others, it is serving me; On the contrary, if this generates conflicts in my environment and I am increasingly isolated, I may have a difficulty.
  • When I observe that my coping strategies are very rigid and make it difficult for me to adapt to the situation. For example, it is not the same to have the information I need to make decisions than to seek information to calm myself down, but not to get it and to enter into the dynamics of reading and distressing myself more. Or with avoidance, it is normal everyone avoids, but if it is generalized and makes it difficult to continue treatments or communicate with my environment, there are difficulties there too.

Personal growth

Some people describe feelings of strength and active, positive and optimistic coping ability. Feelings of those who were not very aware before diagnosis because they had not had a chance and are surprised to have been able to overcome situations that they would not have imagined. The medical process has allowed them to have lived moments that offer the opportunity to enrich themselves and discover themselves.

Many patients also describe a change in life priorities and interpersonal relationships, for example less dedication to work, more enjoyment of everyday situations and increased self-care.

But this personal growth It is not a goal to be reached, nor does everyone experience it, sometimes occurs with different intensity, at different stages of the process.

Psychology Service

California University Hospital

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