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When you first learn that you have metastatic breast cancer, you are likely to feel all sorts of emotions: shock, disbelief, fear, anger, sadness, worry, grief, and more. If you were treated for early-stage breast cancer in the past, your new diagnosis may have happened a few months to many years after initial treatment. The recurrence may be an even bigger surprise if you are years past your diagnosis, because you might have thought you put cancer behind you.
If this is the first time you are dealing with breast cancer, you may know little about cancer. Everything might seem to be happening fast. No matter what your situation, your world has changed and with that comes anxiety and stress. You may feel physical, mental, or emotional tension.
It’s common to focus on just one question after a diagnosis of metastatic disease: “How long will I live?” Mortality is no longer an abstract thought but a real issue. That singular focus will probably lessen as you learn about the treatments that are helping people lead longer and more productive lives.
Everybody responds differently to stressful events. How you react depends on your previous experiences, personality, life situation, support system and other factors.
Your stress might be caused by treatment or side effects, worries about your children or other loved ones, uncertainty about the future or financial pressures. Remember that stress and anxiety did not cause your initial cancer or recurrence. Studies do suggest, though, that high stress can affect your immune system, so taking care of yourself is important. Finding effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety will help improve your quality of life.
Knowing a bit about the different kinds of stress will help you be prepared:
If you feel overwhelmed by an ongoing sense of sadness or restlessness, then you could be experiencing depression, anxiety, or both. These can be addressed with professional help. Some prescription medicines may promote anxiety, so talk with your providers about nervousness that doesn’t go away.
No matter what kind of stress you feel, self-care methods can help.
Certain events may cause you stress or anxiety. Possible triggers include:
Reviewed and updated: August 13, 2019
Reviewed by: Kauser Ahmed PhD , Michael Baime MD , Kathryn Tumelty MSN, FNP-C, AOCNP , Sage Bolte PhD, LCSW, CST
Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.