Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be stressful, and the treatment process can bring about new complications that add to that stress. It can feel overwhelming to manage side effects and fatigue, all while navigating concerns about insurance, employment, and personal relationships.
People with cancer often experience anxiety and mood disorders such as depression. Even after you complete breast cancer treatment, fear of recurrence can make it difficult to enjoy your survivorship status.
Mental health support is available, though. And getting support for your mental health when you have breast cancer could improve your outlook, reduce side effects such as fatigue, and enhance your overall quality of life.
Fortunately, there are many organizations that have made it easier than ever to get mental health support as you cope with breast cancer.
Community support, also known as peer-to-peer support, allows you to share information with others who are going through similar experiences.
Connecting with others helps you manage your emotions in a way that a medical team may not be able to help you with.
With more than 200,000 members and at least 83 online forums on top of planned virtual meetups, Breastcancer.org provides an entire support community at your fingertips.
The Young Survival Coalition was founded by a group of women who all received a diagnosis of breast cancer before age 40.
The organization’s support programs are for young adults with metastatic breast cancer. It offers both local in-person support, as well as digital communities where you can share your feelings and experiences.
The American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program connects people coping with breast cancer with other breast cancer survivors. This free program will match you with a volunteer who has gone through a similar experience.
Cancer Support Community operates a global nonprofit network that encompasses 175 locations. It was founded by a cancer survivor and its mission is to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or have questions about how to cope with your cancer, you can reach out to the organization’s staff via live webchat.
CancerCare provides free, professional support services to help people manage the emotional, practical, and financial challenges of cancer.
Due to public health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has temporarily suspended in-person services, but it still offers counseling over the phone.
It also offers a free 15-week online support group for people with breast cancer who are currently receiving treatment. The group is led by an oncology social worker.
Art therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and pain among people with cancer, according to
Art therapy involves painting or drawing to help you understand your emotions. It can improve your mood, promote relaxation, and increase psychological well-being. You don’t have to be an artist to participate.
Some hospitals sponsor programs that include art therapy, such as the Arts in Medicine program at Moffitt Cancer Center and the Expressive Arts Therapy program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Ask your cancer care team if a program is available for you nearby.
The art therapist locator tool from the American Art Therapy Association can also help you find a professional near you.
The mission of Here for the Girls is to help those under the age of 51 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The group acknowledges that younger people face different challenges with breast cancer due to their age.
The organization’s emotional and social support comes in the form of both in-person and virtual groups. It also offers an annual wellness retreat and outdoor events throughout the year.
Healthcare professionals may recommend both group and individual therapy to help manage stress or depression for people with cancer.
Ask your breast cancer care team or a social worker to refer you to a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health counselor.
These professionals may use an approach known as cognitive behavioral therapy. They can also prescribe medications if they think you’d benefit from an approach that involves more than one method.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these services have transitioned to virtual sessions. This is great news for anyone living in a rural area who may have trouble finding a local therapist who specializes in mental health for people with cancer.
These virtual sessions are sometimes called teletherapy. You can receive teletherapy through video chat, phone calls, and even text messaging.
Research from 2021 suggests that teletherapy can be as effective as traditional in-person mental health services, at least in the short term.
Some degree of anxiety and stress is expected when you are living with breast cancer. It won’t make your breast cancer worse or prevent you from recovering. But it’s important to seek help if you find that fear, anxiety, or stress is interfering with your daily activities, sleep habits, or relationships.
Managing anxiety and stress before, during, and after cancer treatment can be life changing. You may find that your mental health support needs change as you go through the various stages of breast cancer treatment and recovery.
Don’t hesitate to try out a few different approaches before choosing an organization. You may find that a combination of different approaches works best for you.