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Quality of Life FAQs

Updated March 31, 2010

I heard that I can cause a problem if I don’t wear my breast prosthesis. Do I have to wear it, or can I just continue to stuff my bra?

I’m considering having breast reconstruction when I have my mastectomy. Do I have to do it right away?

Even though I have completed treatment, I worry about my cancer coming back. My family and friends say I should stop worrying and just move on. How do I do this?

My family says that since my breast cancer diagnosis, I have been too sensitive. Why do I seem to cry about everything?

Q: I heard that I can cause a problem if I don’t wear my breast prosthesis. Do I have to wear it, or can I just continue to stuff my bra?

A: A breast prosthesis is a breast form that can be worn inside your bra after a mastectomy.

Choosing to wear a prosthesis is a personal decision. You can wear a prosthesis to have your breasts appear even in your clothing and help balance your body and your posture. The weight of the prosthesis helps keep your bra on the side of your mastectomy from riding up, prevent back and neck pain and prevent your shoulder from sagging.

Q: I’m considering having breast reconstruction when I have my mastectomy. Do I have to do it right away?

A: Breast reconstruction is not an emergency—you can take your time to decide. Gather information by talking to your breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon and other women affected by breast cancer who have been through reconstructive surgery so you can make informed decisions.

Having breast reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy requires coordination between your doctors. You may also decide to wait until after treatment is over.

Ask your doctor’s office to check on your insurance options before surgery, and talk to your doctor about breast prosthesis if you decide to wait or do not choose to recreate your breast.

Q: Even though I have completed treatment, I worry about my cancer coming back. My family and friends say I should stop worrying and just move on. How do I do this?

A: The fear you are feeling about your cancer coming back is real and a normal response to having a cancer diagnosis. Each person copes with this fear in a different way. Your family members may be trying to take an cheerful approach because they really wish "no more trouble" for you, but moving on is a personal experience that you must do when you feel ready.

Some women check in with their healthcare provider, others join a support group and still others attend educational conferences to get information to help them understand their cancer and find ways of managing their fears.

Learning to live with the fear of breast cancer coming back and keeping your concern at a manageable level is one of the biggest challenges you may face as you move forward with your life. If you feel depressed or anxious for longer than you expected, talk with your oncologist or oncology nurse. They can direct you to resources that may help you.

For more information, read our article on "Could It Come Back? Managing Fear of Recurrence" in the Fall 2009 issue of Insight and our Guide to Understanding Fear of Recurrence.

Q: My family says that since my breast cancer diagnosis, I have been too sensitive. Why do I seem to cry about everything?

A: Being diagnosed with breast cancer is an emotional experience. Many women feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster with up and down moments. All of your emotions may seem bigger than usual—you may feel more anger, more sadness, more anxiety or even more positive about things that never seemed to affect you before. Your family members may feel helpless because they are also emotionally involved.

Many women affected by breast cancer have looked for a way to achieve emotional balance. Some women seek spiritual support, and others find help from speaking one-on-one to a counselor or someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. You may find support with other women affected by breast cancer in a group or individually. Talking to your family members may help them to understand what you are going through.

If your emotions are getting in the way of your day-to-day life, speak with your doctor about medications that may help ease your anxiety, depression or sleeping problems. Think about what feels best for you—maybe you want to use a combination of support approaches. Recognizing that you and/or your family members need help is a good first step.

All FAQs reviewed by Edith P. Mitchell, MD, FACP

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