Breast Cancer and your emotions

About how breast cancer can affect your emotions

There’s no right or wrong way to feel

It is important to cope with your emotions of being diagnosed and living with breast cancer. It is vital for not only your emotional wellbeing but survival as well.

It is normal that you feel differently from other people with cancer, it does not imply that you aren’t coping well, it just highlights the fact people living with cancer feel and cope with their emotions differently. When you are trying to come to terms with an illness there is no right or wrong way to do so.

People diagnosed with and living with breast cancer often feels negatively and can be draining for you and those around you. At times, you may think you will never get better again. Many questions may arise, such as

  • Will I ever feel happy again?
  • Am I going to die?
  • Why has this happened to me?
  • Why do I feel so low all the time?
  • Will I be able to get myself together and enjoy the things that I used to – even my husband or children can’t seem to make me feel happy any more

All these thoughts, feelings and questions are very natural and completely understandable.
Your family and friends may expect that you start to feel normal again once your treatment finishes. However, many cancer patients find that once the treatment finishes they begin to experience emotional turmoil, thus needing more support.

Asking for help

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. . It is okay to let someone know how awful you feel. Talking about how you feel is more likely to help you and the people around you than staying silent.

COPE offers counseling services that can help you through difficult, emotional times after your diagnosis, during treatment and afterwards. They will be ready to listen to you, give you support, and suggest ways to help you feel more positive about things.


Being diagnosed with breast cancer is a difficult thing to cope with. It is natural to be anxious, frightened or even panic sometimes. It is very important to find ways to cope with these feelings.

Your ability to cope with these feelings depends on

  • The kind of person you are
  • The stage of your cancer is
  • The treatment you have
  • Your support system

You might feel terrified about what is about to happen to you, if the treatments will work, you might worry about side effects, worry about life after your mastectomy, how people will perceive you. All of these feelings will cause you to become anxious, and depending on the kind of person you are, in extreme cases some people start to have panic attacks.

Symptoms of anxiety fear and panic

  • Fear – may cause you to have trouble sleeping, headaches, body aches, chest pain dizziness and lack of appetite.
  • Anger – a thumping heart, raise blood pressure, lack of concentration.
  • Depression – low mood, fatigue, eating disorder.
  • Stress – makes you irritable, sick, tense and aching muscles.

Others symptoms include: Shaking hands or overall body shakes, diarrhoea, pins and needles sensation, ringing in your ears, difficulty swallowing and dry mouth.

Being constantly anxious can also affect your relationships and sex life. You may lose interest in sex and have very low self-esteem.

You may suffer the physical symptoms of anxiety described above but they may be far more intense. Some people even feel as if they are going to die or are going mad. Neither of these happens because of a panic attack but it does feel very real at the time.

Panic attacks may feel awful, but they are not generally dangerous to your health. These attacks may only happen once and may have no lasting effects. But frequent panic attacks can begin to seriously affect your quality of life. If this happens to you, do seek medical help.

It is normal to feel these emotions if you feel anxious or scared about your illness, treatment, work or finances, but in extremes cases it is advisable to seek professional help. Speaking up about these feelings can help you feel less alone and less helpless.

Managing your Fear, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

The feeling of anxiety will not be permanent. Depending on what is about to happen, you may only experience short episodes of feeling anxious. Anxiety might be heightened when you are about to start treatment, go for a check up or after treatment, about to get a mastectomy. Here are some ways to help deal with your anxiety;

  • Taking a friend or relative along to support you during treatment
  • Using relaxation exercises such as deep breathing
  • Having a relaxing massage once a week
  • Doing some form of regular exercise that you enjoy, e.g walking, yoga or swimming
  • Attending support group meetings, so you know you aren’t alone
  • Seeking one on one counselling

Getting treatment for your anxiety
If your anxiety persist over a long period of time, it is important to see a doctor. Sometimes, they suggest that you get help from a specialist such as psychologist or counsellor. Many people have counselling and psychotherapy to help them get over day-to-day emotional or behavioural difficulties. At, COPE we provide professional counselling services. Please check counselling.