Living with Breast Cancer

Living with breast cancer involves having to accept the disease first. After this first step, different strategies can be applied to deal with it. Support from family, friends, and psychology professionals can make a huge difference to patients.
Living with Breast Cancer

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 18 June, 2021

Last update: 18 June, 2021

Breast cancer affects the quality of life in many different ways of those diagnosed with this disease. Physical and emotional sequelae can condition the personal prognosis that each patient has, and can even affect the long-term treatments they wish to receive and their social interaction. Living with breast cancer requires self-acceptance and time, and each person deals with it in their own way.

Specialists will suggest different ways of dealing with the disease, and this can help to reduce its impact. However, the patient and doctor should work together to choose these in a personalized way. It’s important for them to know the different strategies available, but, when it comes down to it, each affected person must take the approach that makes them feel most comfortable.

Living with breast cancer: emotional support

Mental therapy for living with breast cancer
Mental therapy is a great way to achieve emotional health.

One of the main sequelae of the disease that appears after diagnosis is emotional deterioration. Research has shown that the will to live often decreases during this stage, especially in young women. The lack of desire for life can also produce other consequences, such as a loss of identity and changes in social relationships.

There’s evidence that psychological factors can have either a positive or negative influence on how the cancer is controlled, including on the regulation of immune elements related to micrometastasis.

We also know that psychological intervention in the early stages of diagnosis is of great help in order to avoid stress or depression overly affecting the patient. This will, undoubtedly, improve the person’s quality of life throughout the whole process.

Because of this, emotional support can be considered as one more vital stage of breast cancer treatment. This can be done in two ways:

  • Family and friends: Although wanting to be alone is common for the first few weeks after diagnosis, talking openly with family and friends can make a huge difference. Knowing that you’re not alone and that the disease is a reality has a positive impact when facing treatment.
  • Psychology professional: If you want a more professional approach, you can also turn to a psychologist to control these early emotions. Their mediation can help the patient to control these emotions and accept the cancer diagnosis. This is useful, regardless of a person’s age or the specific characteristics of the disease.

Studies indicate that the emotional impact increases as active treatment begins. This is why living with breast cancer requires careful control and monitoring in the early stages of treatment, so that the patient can face all the treatment options and their sequelae with greater courage.

Social support for living with breast cancer

If you’re willing to take part in it, you could also try social support groups to try to cope better with cancer. Studies and research back up the positive effects of support groups on patients, especially regarding the reduction of frustration, stress, depression and an increase in psychological well-being in general.

Listening to and sharing with other diagnosed people can awaken feelings of togetherness. Knowing that there are other patients in the same boat as you is beneficial in the process of accepting the disease. Sharing emotions, experiences, and stories regarding the effects of the treatment can all be an incentive to help you avoid apathy and keep going.

It’s important that you only attend support groups if you’re genuinely interested in these types of sessions. No patient should be compelled to do this, especially if they’re not yet ready to open up to the public.

These days there are different alternatives, ranging from face-to-face groups to those that you can follow online. If either of these options doesn’t bring the desired results, you can always try another with a more pleasant environment.

Breast reconstruction after surgery

Knowing how to live with breast cancer implies being willing to accept cosmetic procedures
It’s possible to perform certain procedures to improve the aesthetic appearance of the breast after surgery.

The physical sequelae of the disease are the biggest problem in breast cancer, as they’re the ones that can cause the greatest impact. However, there are alternatives that can make aesthetic changes tolerable, among which we highlight the following:

  • Breast prosthesis: This is an external prosthesis that can be used to replace the area of the breast after a complete mastectomy. There are foam ones, used while the surgery area heals, and also silicone. The different sizes and shapes allow you to choose options with the most natural appearances.
  • Breast reconstruction: This is performed during the mastectomy, although it can also be carried out later. There are two types: using body tissue or using external prostheses. Such surgery can have a positive impact on the patient’s self-esteem.

These days, there are options that allow the skin and nipple to be preserved, although this always depends on the characteristics of the malignant tissue detected. Living with breast cancer may be more tolerable with these reconstructions, but the choice to proceed with them is always a personal one.

Final advice

As a complement to the above, it’s important that each patient is aware of the characteristics, severity, and prognosis of their disease. Refusing to learn about the type of cancer you have will make it difficult for you to accept it. Having said that, this can take time and personal commitment.

As far as possible, experts recommend that you continue to take part in the same activities you were involved in before the diagnosis. Although the adverse effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment can have an impact here, doctors recommend that, as far as possible, you should continue to:

  • Do physical activity (evidence indicates its effectiveness in improving quality of life)
  • Have a full sexual relationship
  • Play and share with children, grandchildren, or nephews
  • Carry out leisure activities

Maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol and tobacco should be a rule of thumb for living with breast cancer. They not only allow a better physical condition, but also help to deal with the symptoms of the treatment.

We know that the costs of treating the disease can produce many changes in patients’ lives. If you have problems with these changes, then we recommend that you seek the support of a cancer foundation.

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