Coping with Mental Health and Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in which different organizations and foundations emphasize the importance of diagnostic visits, the use of diagnostic tools, and early detection of breast tumors. Predictably, mental health and breast cancer may intertwine and significantly impact your overall well-being and physical health.
Statistically, one in eight women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, accounting for over a quarter million diagnoses per year. Among these figures, about 43,000 women are estimated to die from breast cancer in 2022.
Breast cancer largely affects women at or over the age of 62, and only a small percentage of women receive a diagnosis earlier than 45. But that underlines the importance of regular, annual checkups for all female adults – even if your chances are statistically slim, breast cancer is far more treatable if detected as early as possible. Breast cancer risk can be inherited, but it is still largely random. This means that there is still a chance you may develop breast cancer, even if no other female relative in your family did.
Efforts to draw attention to breast cancer and increase detection continue to save lives. In the years 2013 to 2018, for example, breast cancer mortality sunk by one percent each year.
Yet despite these efforts, breast cancer continues to be a dangerous and frighteningly common diagnosis for women and a source of dread and anxiety. Dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis can also be incredibly difficult. However, with the right help, one can learn to manage their mental health and breast cancer diagnosis simultaneously.
The Effects of Mental Health and Breast Cancer
It can be difficult to talk about mental health and a breast cancer diagnosis. For most people, it feels like a no-brainer that finding out you have cancer affects your mood and mental health for the worse.
Yet it being obvious does not make it any less important. Managing your anxiety – and your depression – while treating your breast cancer matters.
These emotional states are more than just a matter of subjectivity. Yes, survival is crucial. But your quality of life – and in some ways, even the statistical chances of a good outcome – are mediated by a positive and healthier mental outlook.
In other words, dealing with your emotional needs as well as your cancer treatment can make treatment more effective and help fight the cancer.
It’s not always just about the fight, though. There comes a time when we must learn to accept the possibility of an end – and endeavor to spend the remaining time we have as best we can. Mental counseling and mental health treatment can help individuals with a cancer diagnosis come to terms with their circumstances, regardless of where their treatment outcomes might take them.
Taking Measures to Affect Your Mood
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, your first instinct might be to burst. Whether it’s anger or sadness, it’s natural and healthy to have some reaction to this kind of news. But if you feel numb – or if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by your mood, day in and day out – don’t hesitate to seek help.
This is a unique experience, and it’s not something most people can openly relate to, even if they empathize. This can feel tremendously lonely at a time when you shouldn’t be isolated or feeling alone. The good news is that you aren’t.
You don’t have to go get a psychiatrist’s prescription because you’re feeling a certain way after receiving your diagnosis. But talking to a professional or other people with similar experiences – through support groups, online forums, and chatrooms – can help tremendously. It’s important to vocalize your thoughts and feelings, and read or hear about the experiences of others, especially if you don’t personally know any other cancer survivors.
Physical Health Is Still Crucial
Understandably, a cancer diagnosis can result in fatalistic thinking. A lot of women who receive cancer diagnoses begin to struggle to take care of themselves. They might start stress eating or cut back on exercise. They might withdraw to old habits they’ve worked to get away from, such as misusing alcohol or other substances. It becomes harder and harder to find the motivation to take care of oneself, especially as both physical and mental fatigue begins to set in. After all, what’s the point?
Aside from the fact that breast cancer is still treatable, these short-term pleasures have a strong negative impact on your physical and mental health, one you will feel immediately.
Continuing to take care of yourself and prioritize both your physical and mental well-being may not only impact treatment outcomes but improve your day-to-day quality of life. Being healthier is about more than just longevity and survival. It’s also about being physically able to make the most of your time.
Stress Reduction and Symptom Management
Getting cancer is stressful. There’s the illness itself, but there’s also the rest of life and its burdens and challenges. There are bills to pay, responsibilities to fulfill, and obligations to match. Alone, some of these challenges can be crushingly difficult. But with people around us to help, things can get a little easier.
Get a support system going. Talk to friends and family. Make arrangements at work. Keep yourself busy, give yourself purpose, pick up or continue old hobbies and interests, and fill out your day-to-day with something that makes you feel proud or accomplished – but don’t feel pressured to do it alone. You don’t need to.
And most importantly, see a professional. Regardless of whether you have a history of depressive or anxious thoughts, something like breast cancer will naturally burden most people with emotions and questions they might not be able to figure out themselves.
It’s easy to lose sight of the important things and start struggling with your thoughts and then your behaviors – whether it’s something as simple as an appetite change, poorer sleep habits, or something more complicated, like a recurring substance issue.
Mental Health Treatment at Amend in Malibu
Seeking care for mental health and breast cancer is essential during a diagnosis and for recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression while dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, reach out to Amend Treatment.