Psycho-Oncology - The Emotional Effects of Breast Cancer

A diagnosis of breast cancer can significantly impact on the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of patients and their families. Remember your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health. Everyone needs some support during difficult times, especially when dealing with a serious illness. Having to face cancer is probably one of the most stressful situations you are ever likely to face. There is no right or wrong way to cope. Only what is right for you. Give yourself plenty of time to adapt. Be patient and don’t expect too much too soon – have realistic expectations.

Challenges include adjusting to the illness; the stresses of medical treatment; emotional needs; depression, anxiety, relationship and caregiving strains; coping with pain, insomnia and other symptoms; and much more. Patients and their care-givers frequently require short-term and longer-term support to help them address these emotional difficulties and mental health problems.

It is important to note that specially trained individuals at your local psycho-oncology service are available to help you and your family from diagnosis, through breast cancer treatment and life beyond cancer.

The psycho-oncology service specialises in emotional difficulties and mental health problems and exists to provide supportive care to patients and their families from diagnosis to life beyond cancer. The service is provided by a multi-disciplinery team to include a psychiatrist, a counsellor, a psychotherapist and specialist nurses. Together, these specially trained staff help patients and their families address a spectrum of problems to include anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties and other concerns related to cancer and its treatment in the short or longer term. The psycho-oncology team work closely with other staff offering specialist support and rehabilitation.

Anyone who thinks they may benefit from these services should talk to their local GP, oncologist, surgeon or oncology nurse specialist and ask to be referred. If some support services are not available in your area, find other ways to cope. Talk to your medical social worker or community health officer too. Welcome support from friends and neighbours. It is not a sign of failure to ask for help or to feel unable to cope on your own. Once other people understand how you are feeling, they can give you more support.

For more info on psychological issues click here.

External Links


Assessment of needs, health-related quality of life, and satisfaction with care in breast cancer patients to better target supportive care.
Brédart A, Kop JL, Griesser AC, Fiszer C, Zaman K, Panes-Ruedin B, Jeanneret W, Delaloye JF, Zimmers S, Berthet V, Dolbeault S.
Ann Oncol. 2013 Apr 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Interpreting differences in patterns of supportive care needs between patients with breast cancer and patients with colorectal cancer.
Li WW, Lam WW, Au AH, Ye M, Law WL, Poon J, Kwong A, Suen D, Tsang J, Girgis A, Fielding R.
Psychooncology. 2013 Apr;22(4):792-8. doi: 10.1002/pon.3068. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Feeling like me again: a grounded theory of the role of breast reconstruction surgery in self-image.
McKean LN, Newman EF, Adair P.
Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2013 Jul;22(4):493-502. doi: 10.1111/ecc.12055. Epub 2013 Jun 3.

Mindfulness significantly reduces self-reported levels of anxiety and depression: results of a randomised controlled trial among 336 Danish women treated for stage I-III breast cancer.
Würtzen H, Dalton SO, Elsass P, Sumbundu AD, Steding-Jensen M, Karlsen RV, Andersen KK, Flyger HL, Pedersen AE, Johansen C.
Eur J Cancer. 2013 Apr;49(6):1365-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2012.10.030. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

[Effect of systematic information about psychosocial support services during outpatient radiotherapy : A controlled trial].
Schiel RO, Herzog W, Hof H, Debus J, Friederich HC, Brechtel A, Rummel J, Freytag P, Hartmann M.
Strahlenther Onkol. 2013 Jul;189(7):579-85. doi: 10.1007/s00066-013-0366-6. Epub 2013 Jun 9. German.