Cancer has got to be one of the most terrifying words in the English language. Cancer used to be equated with almost certain death, and there’s a lot of residual fear in our society, despite major education to combat it. Thanks to significant advances in medical care, it’s not as terrifying a diagnosis as it once was, but it’s pretty scary nonetheless.
What’re some of the psychological fallouts of breast cancer?
- You may never feel entirely safe again. Once you’ve had cancer, any cold, rash, or injury that’s slow to heal may bring up the thought “what if my cancer is back?”
- Feeling like less of a woman, if you’ve had a lumpectomy that made a sizable change in your breast, or if you’ve had a partial or full mastectomy (removal of the breast and surrounding tissue), you may feel like an essential part of your womanhood has been taken away from you.
- Fear of dating or having sexual relationships. This may be driven by shame, embarrassment, or just not wanting to revisit your entire medical history for someone you’d like to get naked with.
- Dreading doctor’s appointments – as they review your medical history, cancer is always one of those noteworthy items.
- Anger towards your body or your genes for giving you cancer. Perhaps anger directed at a doctor you think missed it, or who didn’t do a perfect reconstructive surgery.
- Feeling disconnected from your body in a strange way if you’ve had reconstruction surgery, implants, or other treatments that have left you with unusual skin texture, lack of feeling/nerve sensation, or breasts that look substantially different than they used to look.
- Emotional disconnection from relationship partners who just don’t understand how you feel, or worse yet, rejected you during or after cancer because they were too scared to handle it, or turned off by your body looking different.
- Sometimes, there’s just relief. If you’ve got a strong family history of breast cancer and just “always knew” you were going to get it, actually getting it may mean that you get to grieve, finally, deal with it, and move on. Otherwise, the not knowing about how, if, or when the genetic lottery is going to play out in your body can be a major source of stress in your life.
If cancer is located only in the breast (not the lymph nodes or other surrounding tissues), the survival rate is 99%. Don’t let fear or anxiety keep you from seeking diagnosis or treatment.
PCOS Psychology is my private Facebook group. Please join today. We’re not afraid to talk about the hard stuff, including breast cancer and other illnesses.