Dealing with the Psychological and Emotional Issues after Breast Cancer
Any cancer diagnosis can be a real shock for the person who receives the bad news, but breast cancer can be particularly difficult emotionally and psychologically. If you have been told you have breast cancer, at first you will probably feel like the only person this has ever happened to. You’re also sure to have a million questions, and have no idea what to do.
This is only natural. It’s a big shock. But you need to pull it together so you can be proactive about your health. You also need to gather a good support network to help you fight the emotional and psychological aspects of breast cancer.
Womanhood and femininity
Breasts are closely associated with images of femininity, motherhood, and sexual attractiveness. Being told you have breast cancer can be not just frightening, but strike at the core of what an individual feels like to be a woman. It can be a really devastating diagnosis for a woman who has recently had a child, or put off having children. Can they breast feed? Will they ever be able to get pregnant?
These are legitimate concerns, with no quick answers. This is because your treatment plan has to be formulated based on many different factors, including age, type of cancer, stage of cancer, and more.
Loss of a part of yourself
In some cases, you may be able to opt for breast-sparing surgery, in which the cancerous tumor is removed. In other cases, you may have to have a full mastectomy that is, removing the breast completely. Women who take pride in that aspect of their appearance may find this devastating. Fortunately, breast reconstruction surgery can help a woman regain that part of herself, though it will mean removal of skin from other parts of the body to form the new ‘breast’.
A woman who has had a mastectomy might be self-conscious even if she has reconstruction. The sensation won’t be the same for her in terms of arousal and the scars will take some time to heal, with varying degrees of evenness and attractiveness. If she doesn’t have reconstruction, she can wear a special bra with a prosthesis, or fake breast, made from silicone, which will look realistic under her clothing and feel real, but which she will have to take off before going to bed or having sex. This can make some women very self-conscious.
Last but not least, there is the fear of death due to cancer. Discussing these fears with your doctor, a therapist, or a spiritual figure such as your priest or pastor can help you deal with your thoughts about mortality.