Breast Cancer & Coping With Your Emotions After A Diagnosis

October 8, 2022

Did you know that breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States?   Each year in the United States, about 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,400 in men.  That is why it is so important to continue to bring awareness to this disease and to remind you to do your self-breast examinations.  Also, be sure to go to visit your doctor at least once a year.  

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer originates in the breast tissue. It occurs when the breast cells mutate (change) and grow out of control, creating a tumor. Similar to other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding your breast. It can also metastasize to other parts of your body and form new tumors. When this happens, it’s called metastasis.

Different types of breast cancer:

  • Infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma. This is the most common type – making up about 80% of all cases.  It starts in the milk ducts of your breast, this cancer breaks through the wall of your duct and spreads to surrounding breast tissue. 
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ. Also known as Stage 0 breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ is considered by some to be precancerous because the cells haven’t spread beyond your milk ducts. Generally, this condition is very treatable. With that being said, prompt care is still necessary to prevent cancer from becoming invasive and spreading to other tissues.
  • Infiltrating (invasive) lobular carcinoma. This cancer forms in the lobules of the breast, where breast milk production takes place, and spreads to surrounding breast tissue. It accounts for 10% to 15% of breast cancer cases.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ. Is considered to be a precancerous condition in which there are abnormal cells in the lobules of your breast.  This is mostly a marker that can indicate the potential for breast cancer later on. 
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). This type makes up about 15% of all cases, triple-negative breast cancer is also one of the most challenging breast cancers to treat. It’s called triple negative because it doesn’t have three of the markers associated with other types of breast cancer. Prognosis and treatment can be difficult.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer. Known to be rare and aggressive, this type of cancer resembles an infection. People with inflammatory breast cancer show signs like redness, swelling, pitting, and dimpling of their breast skin. It’s caused by obstructive cancer cells in the skin’s lymph vessels.
  • Paget’s disease of the breast. This type of cancer affects the skin of your nipple and areola (the skin around your nipple).

Early signs of breast cancer

Symptoms can vary for each person. The possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • Change in the size, shape, or contour of your breast.
  • You detect a mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
  • There is a lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that continues through your menstrual cycle.
  • The look or feel of the skin on your breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed changes.
  • You notice redness of the skin on your breast or nipple.
  • An area that is noticeably different from any other area on either breast.
  • If you detect a marble-like hardened area under your skin.
  • If you experience blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.

How does breast cancer get diagnosed?

Generally, your healthcare provider will perform a breast exam and ask you about your family history, medical history, and if you are experiencing any symptoms. Your healthcare provider will also recommend tests to check for any breast abnormalities. The tests that check for breast abnormalities include

  • Mammogram. X-ray picture of the breast.
  • Ultrasonography. A procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at tissues and organs inside the body.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning. Is an imaging test that can help reveal the metabolic or biochemical function of your tissues and organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A test that uses magnets and radio waves to produce clear, detailed images of the structures inside of your breast.

If anything of concern is found on the imaging tests, your healthcare provider may take a biopsy of your breast tissue. Then the sample will be sent to a pathology lab for analysis.

What is the treatment for breast cancer?

There are a few breast cancer treatment options that include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. Depending on the location and size of the tumor along with the results of the lab test will determine which test is right for the individual.  Also, whether or not cancer has spread to other parts of the body will be a factor. Your healthcare provider will tailor the treatment plan according to your needs. In some cases, treatment will include a combination of the options. 

coping with breast cancer

Coping with your emotions after a cancer diagnosis.

Be sure to express your feelings

Many can sort out their feelings by talking to friends or family, other cancer survivors, a support group, or a counselor. But even if you prefer not to discuss your cancer with others, you can still sort out your feelings by thinking about them or writing them down.

Look for the positive

Try to use your energy to focus on wellness and what you can do now to stay as healthy as possible.

Don’t blame yourself

Some people blame themselves and believe that they got cancer because of something they did or did not do. Scientists don’t know why one person gets cancer and one person doesn’t. We are all different and cancer can happen to anyone.

Don’t try to be upbeat if you’re not

Sometimes it is just a bad emotional day and it is okay to give in to those feelings. As one woman said, “When it gets really bad, I just tell my family I’m having a bad cancer day and go upstairs and crawl into bed.”

You get to choose when to talk about cancer

It can be hard for people around you to know what to say.  Often loved ones mean well, but they don’t know what to say or how to act. You can choose to talk about it or ask them questions about how they feel. The choice is yours.

Find ways to help yourself to relax

Find an activity that helps you unwind, you should take some time to do it. It could be meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation exercises are just a few ways that have been proven to help others.

Be as active as you can

Getting out and doing something can help you focus on other things besides cancer. Exercise or gentle yoga and stretching can help too.

Look for things you enjoy

Take time for your hobbies or find creative outlets such as art, movies, music, or dance.

Look at what you can control

Focus on the things you can control. For instance, some people say that putting their lives in order helps. Being involved in your health care plan and making changes in your lifestyle are among the things you can control. Even setting a schedule can give you a sense of control. You may not be able to control every thought, some say that they try not to focus on fear-based thoughts.  Instead, they focus more on what they can do to enjoy the positive parts of life.  

Keep in mind, that some people don’t notice any signs of breast cancer at all.  That’s why it is so important to see your healthcare provider for your annual exams and once you are 40 years of age to have routine mammograms.  If you have a family history of breast cancer your healthcare provider may discuss with you about starting mammograms sooner.

If you have any questions or concerns, schedule your appointment with OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch.  Early detection is key in the fight against cancer.  We are committed to caring for women throughout their lives!