A psychologist is very helpful in managing the stress and fears surrounding breast cancer treatment
Many women are understandably worried about their abilities to get through the breast cancer treatment process.
Being able to talk to a psychologist can really help deal with the feelings of fear and anxiety surrounding recovery. Many women naturally become very anxious and depressed when confronting breast cancer. The side effects of chemotherapy can be very distressing for some women. Facing a life-threatening diagnosis and the anxiety connected to that can even result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Look out for the symptoms.
Psychologists are specially trained to assist breast cancer patients in managing the anxiety and stress that frequently accompany breast cancer treatment. Equally important, psychologists can help the patients family and support network also deal with their stress.
I want to let you know that this page still has great research material, but getting just a little bit old. However, because of that, I have decided to create a newer version of this page with more up-to-date information on Psychologists.
Women with breast cancer should not ‘keep it to themselves’
Some women with breast cancer worry about ‘telling‘ their family about the disease, and how much to tell. A psychologist can help to clarify these issues. Women also may have difficulty telling their aging parents about breast cancer diagnosis, or may have partners who become very silent and depressed over breast cancer. A psychologist plays a critical role in helping all involved to cope with the situation in the healthiest possible way.
Lower self esteem is common
Many women who go through breast cancer treatment my also experience lowered self esteem from a variety of factors. In some cases treatment may require surgery, which can effect a woman’s perceived body image. Treatment can also bring about changes to sexual issues, and many women worry that their spouse may not desire them anymore.
Young women at times worry that breast cancer treatment may have an impact on their ability to have children. All of these can add up to profound feelings of loss and grief. So, the intervention of a psychologist becomes critical, as they have specific training to help women with breast cancer process these emotions and issues.
Social and Psychological Impacts of breast cancer treatment
A recent trend in breast cancer treatment research is to consider whether or not psychosocial factors can actually have an impact on disease recovery. While many studies do show a ‘significantly significant association‘ between at least one psychosocial variable and improved disease outcome, the results are highly debatable.
Breast cancer can cause depression in many women
Among the psychosocial factors which could potentially have an effect on the breast cancer treatment process are social support, dealing with depression, and not minimizing or denying the breast cancer. In some cases, women with breast cancer may carry ‘self blame‘ about the disease. These kinds of emotional blocks need to be discussed with a psychologist or social worker to be properly dealt with and released.
Improved mood, better coping, healthier behaviors
Psychosocial interventions in which patients often participated are usually focused on coping effectively with stress and anxiety, improving mood, and changing or improving overall health behaviors. Recent studies do seem to indicate that breast cancer patients who do received psychological and social support actually live longer than those who do not. Some believe that focusing on improved wellness and health behaviors can actually enhance a patient’s immunity. Stress hormones can have an impact on the immune system, and this can have an impact on breast cancer growth or even metastasis.
For further reading, I suggest you to visit this page with information on a multidisciplinary team approach to breast cancer treatment.
- Falagas ME, Zarkadoulia EA, Ioannidou EN, Peppas G, Christodoulou C, Rafailidis PI.The effect of psychosocial factors on breast cancer outcome: a systematic review. Breast Cancer Res. 2007;9(4):R44.
- Andrykowski MA, Manne SL: Are psychological interventions effective and accepted by cancer patients? I. Standards and levels of evidence. Ann Behav Med 2006, 32:93-97.
- Graham J, Ramirez A, Love S, Richards M, Burgess C. Stressful life experiences and risk of relapse of breast cancer: observational cohort study. BMJ. 2002 Jun 15;324(7351):1420.
- Cerna, Zuzana. Psychological preparedness for breast cancer surgery. Ph.D. Dissertation, UBC, 2000.
- Donovan-Kicken E, Caughlin JP. Breast cancer patients’ topic avoidance and psychological distress: the mediating role of coping.J Health Psychol. 2011 May;16(4):596-606. Epub 2011 Feb 23.
- Andersen, BL., Yang, Hae-Chung., Farrar, WB., Golden-Kreutz, DM., Emery, CF., Thorton, LM., Young, DC., Carson III, WE., "Psychological intervention improves survival for breast cancer patients: A randomized clinical trial." Cancer.; Published Online: November 17, 2008.