Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Coping with Your Emotions

Learning you have cancer produces a range of emotional reactions. A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer can be especially difficult to hear because it is so different from other breast cancers. Because it is commonly diagnosed in younger women, all the typical emotional reactions to a breast cancer diagnosis – such as fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation – are compounded with challenges related to family, taking care of your children and managing your career. Know that you are not alone. Talk to other individuals who have or had triple negative breast cancer and make a plan to help you better cope and communicate.

Controlling Fear

Fear is common throughout the course of triple negative breast cancer, from diagnosis through treatment. Being afraid is completely normal. To manage it, learn all you can about your treatment options. This will help you feel more in control and confident about your treatment choices.

Managing Anxiety

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

  • Focus on what you love. Activities you enjoy can help you feel better and live in the present.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Engage in regular physical activity.
  • Avoid unnecessary stress by staying away from people who make you feel negative.
  • Say no to extra responsibilities.

When sadness interferes with your daily life and persists for at least two weeks, talk to your doctor, as you may have depression. 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. A combination of counseling and medication (antidepressants) may be effective. Cancer support groups may also be helpful. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or another member of your treatment team about your emotional state.

Overcoming Feelings of Isolation

You may feel isolated, even from others with a different type of breast cancer. 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 types of breast cancers that most people are familiar with and correcting misconceptions can also be frustrating. Seeking out other people with triple negative breast cancer may help you feel less isolated and part of a distinct community.

Dealing with Fertility Issues

Fertility may be a major concern if you are of childbearing age when triple negative breast cancer is diagnosed. Some treatments may leave you unable to have children. If you would like to explore the possibility of becoming a parent in the future, consult with a fertility expert before committing to any treatment options. There are ways to preserve your fertility, and your medical team can help you better understand your options.

Caring for Your Kids

Talk with family and friends about helping your kids continue to live normal lives as much as possible. Make playdates for days you know you won’t be at your best, and schedule fun activities that you can be part of for your good days. Kids are perceptive and often know when something is wrong, so consider talking to them about cancer as soon after the diagnosis as possible. If you’re having trouble starting the conversation, it may be helpful to include another family member or a professional who can help answer questions. Focus on all that you and your doctors are doing to treat the cancer. Assure your kids that they can still come to you to talk about other important or fun things. Remind them that no matter what happens, cancer doesn’t affect how much you love them.

Handling Your Career

Your cancer diagnosis may force you to make choices in the workplace. If you continue to work, talk with your employer about adjusting your schedule to accommodate more frequent medical visits or recuperation time after treatments. If you take significant time off during cancer treatment, re-entering the work force can be a difficult transition, whether you are returning full-time, part-time or starting a new job. Mixed emotions are normal so give yourself plenty of time to work through them. Setting career goals, understanding disclosure obligations and determining any necessary modifications you’ll need beforehand can all help you clear your head and ease the transition.

Additional Resources


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