The psychological impact of breast cancer

Breast cancer affects more than just the physical self. The most common form of cancer found in women worldwide, it often challenges patients’ ability to cope socially and emotionally. Approximately 80% of patients is reported to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms following their diagnosis.

The level of emotional and mental distress varies from woman to woman – feelings of anger, sadness, exhaustion, and stress. A litany of complex emotions can arise due to a number of factors – coming to terms with the diagnosis and the effects of the treatment, hormonal changes, adapting life experiences and genetics.

In some ways, the ongoing psychological and emotional challenges faced by patients in recovery can feel as heavy as the physical treatments endured. Common challenges reported by patients include:

  • Physical symptoms like fatigue, trouble sleeping, or pain.
  • Body image disruption
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Treatment-related anxiety
  • Feelings of vulnerability and existential concerns regarding mortality
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Anxiety and depression

While these symptoms are best addressed by social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, not all patients have easy access to these resources.

From fear to empowerment

For many breast cancer sufferers, connecting with other women who can relate to and share in their experiences have proved crucial in coping with these overwhelming psychological symptoms. There have even been studies that suggest an increased survival period from participation in such support groups.

Nonprofit organizations, like Living Beyond Breast Cancer, work to connect breast cancers sufferers and survivors across the globe with one another creating communities of support that insulate against the feelings of misinformation and isolation. Offering programmes and services developed with leading oncologists, health professionals and ally organisations, these services are available in a number of easily accessible formats for patients around the world.

Physical exercise and maintaining a regular sleep schedule have also been recognized to assist with the emotional state of sufferers. Just the provision of basic support, such as help with daily activities and transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, can significantly quell overwhelming fears, feelings and concerns of patients.

The role of early detection

One of the key factors in the prevention and treatment of many of these psychosocial symptoms remains early detection. This can make treatment easier on patients and their families, help avoid expensive late-detection measures, and prevent the physically and emotionally traumatic potential removal of the patient’s breasts.

Active supporters of women’s health and vocal advocates of the importance of awareness and early detection, Bergman, Ross & Partners (BRP), offers a comprehensive range of services for breast cancer patients that includes general X-rays, ultrasound, mammography, CT, MRI, MRI breast as well as breast biopsies. At Bergman, Ross & Partners, mammogram examinations include a breast ultrasound – a service that aids in diminishing risk and bolstering the preventative process.

For BRP, the importance of early detection in the prevention of acute, emotional trauma cannot be overstated. “We support breast cancer awareness in the form of education and are committed to preventative health screenings,” says Wendy Black of Bergman, Ross & Partners. “As approximately 65% of cancers are diagnosed too late, we try to work on preventative and early diagnosis, as it is totally treatable at that stage. If we can diagnose early, we can save so many lives.”

For more information

For further information on the practice and breast cancer awareness, please contact Bergman, Ross & Partners Radiologists on 021 110 5777 for further assistance. Suite 306, 3rd Floor, The Point Centre, 76 Regent Road, Sea Point.