Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Managing Emotionally

A diagnosis of any kind of cancer is upsetting. Triple-negative breast cancer can be especially difficult to hear because people do not always understand that it is different from other breast cancers. Feeling a range of emotions is normal as you learn about your diagnosis, begin treatment and explain your diagnosis to friends and family. Even if you feel alone during this time, remember that you are not. Many other women with triple-negative breast cancer have gone through similar experiences. Below are some of the common emotional responses you may have and helpful ways to cope with them.

Feelings of isolation

Some women with triple-negative breast cancer feel isolated, even from women with other breast cancer diagnoses. It can be hard to hear about people who have treatment options you don’t have. Likewise, well-meaning friends may ask insensitive questions or suggest options that just aren’t available to you. Having to explain how your diagnosis is different from other breast cancers or needing to correct misconceptions can also be frustrating.

Seeking out other patients with triple-negative breast cancer may help you cope with feeling isolated.

Anxiety and depression

Feeling sad, worried or overwhelmed during your treatment is normal. You may find that these feelings are worse at some times than others. If these negative feeling don’t go away or get worse, you may have anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression are considered medical conditions and can be managed.

If your anxiety grows beyond normal worry, you may have an anxiety disorder. Common symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling in a constant state of tension or worry
  • Feeling “on edge” or irritable
  • Becoming tired easily or having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

If your sadness interferes with your daily life, you might have depression. If you experience at least five of these symptoms every day for at least two weeks talk to your doctor about depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “numb” feelings
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Repeated episodes of crying

Women with mild anxiety or depression may benefit from counseling. Counseling can help you improve your communication with family members and friends, as well as ease fears about your cancer. Cancer support groups may also be helpful.

Other women may find a combination of counseling and medication (antidepressants) effective. Many antidepressants are available and each one has different side effects, so talk to your doctor about which antidepressants may works best for you with the fewest side effects. Cognitive behavioral therapy may also be an option and involves changing your negative thoughts and behavior with the help of a mental health professional.

Fear

Fear is common during treatment and may remain prevalent even after treatment ends because of the risk of recurrence associated with triple-negative breast cancer. Feeling fear is completely normal. These suggestions may help you manage the fear you feel during or after treatment:

  • Focus on what you love. Activities you enjoy can help you feel better and live in the present.
  • Avoid unnecessary stress by staying away from people who make you feel negative and say no to taking on extra responsibilities.
  • Get support. Talk to your family and friends about your feelings and fear of recurrence. Talking to a mental health provider or attending a support group may also be helpful.

Additional Resources

 

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