Managing the mental health impact of a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis

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(BPT) - The stress of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for patients, families and caregivers. And while each person’s response to hearing the words “you have cancer” may differ, feelings of stress, fear and unease are common. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, one in three people with cancer experience mental or emotional distress, and these challenges appear most (42%) among women with breast cancer.

Mental health can often take a back seat when a person is prioritizing their physical health, but managing mental health is essential and may even have an impact on living with metastatic breast cancer. Studies have shown that a decrease in symptoms of depression was associated with longer life in patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

For Linda Carey, who has been living with MBC since 2006, having a community around her has been key to her well-being. “Your community and loved ones can be valuable sources of support and light in your metastatic breast cancer experience.”

Emotional health is important at every stage of a cancer diagnosis and treatment journey, and each person’s coping strategy is unique to them. “It is important to remember that most people experience some kind of impact on their mental health with a cancer diagnosis. It can be sadness, helplessness or another stronger feeling. We want anyone experiencing concerns about their mental health to know there are resources available at LBBC.org and elsewhere to help,” said Jean Sachs, MSS, MLSP, Chief Executive Officer at Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer.

There are a number of ways to manage the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis. Talking with someone about it, whether it’s your healthcare team or a loved one, can be a first step. Here are a few tips:

* Capture your experiences and feelings. Keep a journal to write down emotions and organize thoughts, record feelings in a video, or through music, photography, drawing or painting.

* Accept help from friends and family. Ask for and accept help. Friends and family can be sources of support and help lighten the load with daily tasks. Letting them take the kids to school, pick up groceries or help out with other household chores can have a meaningful impact on emotional stress.

* Seek out individual or group support. In-person or virtual support groups offer a space to connect with others experiencing something similar. Local advocacy groups can be a great resource to find a group or individual therapy to cope with feelings that accompany a cancer diagnosis.

* Be open with your healthcare providers and healthcare team. Have an honest, open dialogue with your healthcare team when making care decisions.

To learn more about life with metastatic breast cancer and find a list of community partners with mental health and educational resources available for people with cancer and their loved ones, visit LifeBeyondPink.com.

US-64112 Last Updated 5/22




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