A Message from MSDBC about Emotional Needs of Women with Breast Cancer

  1. A woman's highest anxiety level is usually between the time a breast health problem is identified and the time of confirmation of diagnosis. This is due to fear of the unknown. Physicians should do whatever they can to shorten that window of time.
  2. A woman feels she has lost control of her life when informed she has breast cancer. In addition, family members feel they too have lost control. A mother, or other family member, may feel responsible. We must empower the patient and her family to help them regain a sense of control. Educating the patient and her family who will be directly involved with her care and treatment is a positive way to empower patients and enable them to participate in the decision making about her care and treatment options.
  3. It can be hard for doctors to address the emotional needs of their patients. Doctors function as the "captain of the ship" yet may leave out an essential component of care--the emotional needs of the woman and her family. If they are unable to meet these emotional needs they must have resources immediately available as a part of the health care team taking care of the patient. One of these individuals can be a trained breast cancer survivor.
  4. Every patient must have a "care partner." This partner is a family member--band, boyfriend, mother, sister or other close person. This individual needs emotional support as well.
  5. Post-treatment syndrome must be a new priority. After the intensity of treatment, a woman is never the same as before, though she and other people expect her to be. There is constant fear that the cancer will return, manifesting itself as aches and pains that previous to having breast cancer would have been shrugged off as merely a minor problem. The patient, her mother and other family members are caught up in this fear. The primary care physician is called on to alleviate these fears, thus driving up health care costs. A "weaning" plan is needed after the intensity of the treatment is officially completed. Seeing the patients at six-week- then three-month- then six-month-intervals by a nurse practitioner can help fulfill this need and reduce anxiety. Encouraging patients to continue to talk about their feelings is important too. Support groups with an effective facilitator can serve this need in many cases or one-on-one counseling.

As was quoted in the Eastern Shore Episcopalian, a publication of the Diocese of Easton (Maryland):


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes. --Charles Swindoll in The Newsletter