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Coping with breast cancer emotionally

However you feel, this in-depth guide gives you advice and resources on how to cope emotionally with breast cancer.

1. Dealing with your emotions

There’s no right or wrong way to feel after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

You’ll probably go through many emotions, from fear, shock and anger to disbelief, sadness and numbness. 

Your emotions may change day to day or even hour to hour. It’s usual to have times when you feel very low followed by times when things seem more positive. 

The days and weeks immediately after a diagnosis can be particularly emotional and feel overwhelming. 

Many people start to feel a bit calmer or less anxious once they have been told about their treatment plan. 

Things you can try that may help you cope

  • Think about how you coped with previous trauma or stress – you could try using these methods again now
  • Use your breast care nurse – they can help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options and support you during your treatment and beyond
  • Be kind to yourself – it may help to take time to rest, eat healthily, keep active and, when you can, do something you enjoy
  • Talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling – you might like to read our tips on telling family and friends about your cancer, in section 4 of this page

2. If you’re feeling overwhelmed

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.

It can be hard to think straight or carry out normal everyday activities. 

Some people have physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhoea or difficulty sleeping. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can help to talk to your GP. They can offer support and medication that can help in the short term.

Call our helpline

Many people find it easier to talk someone other than family or friends. Calling our free helpline - see the top or bottom of this page - offers you the chance to talk openly in a safe and confidential space, without worrying about upsetting or protecting those close to you.

Our helpline staff are used to talking to people who are finding it hard to cope after a breast cancer diagnosis.  

We’re used to hearing all sorts of reactions – nothing is surprising or unusual.   

Calls are answered by an experienced breast care nurse or one of our trained staff who have a personal or work-related experience of breast cancer. 

Whatever your reason for calling, we’ll respond in a friendly, understanding and professional way. 

Our helpline staff can also talk to you about your treatment and what to expect, as well as relevant services or information.

If you prefer to communicate by writing you can email our nurses - simply scroll to the bottom of this page for more information - or post your question on our forum.

3. Look after your mental health

Mental health toolkit

We’ve pulled together information, tips and real life stories that could help if you’re finding it hard to cope.

Check out our life after treatment page for more information. 

Stress and anxiety

It’s common to feel stressed and anxious after a diagnosis of breast cancer. 

Some people experience anxiety for the first time. Others may have had anxiety in the past, and their cancer diagnosis can make their anxiety worse. There are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety. We've got more information to help you.

You may also find the following websites useful:

Low mood and depression 

Most people experience low moods and sadness when they’re diagnosed.

Sometimes a cancer diagnosis can trigger depression. 

Find out more about coping with low mood and depression.

4. Talking to family, friends and children

If you’re finding it difficult to cope emotionally, you might want to talk to friends or family members about how you’re feeling. 

We’ve put together some tips for how to tell family and friends about your cancer

You can also read our tips on talking with children about breast cancer.

5. Dealing with isolation

Feeling lonely or isolated is very common. 

You may feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by family and friends. If they haven’t experienced cancer themselves, you might feel like they don’t understand what you’re going through.  

Connecting with people who understand

For some people, connecting with others who are in a similar situation can help reduce feelings of isolation, as well as anxiety or fear.

If you've been diagnosed with primary breast cancer, our Someone Like Me service can put you in touch with someone with a similar experience of breast cancer. You can talk through your worries and share experiences over the phone or by email. Simply scroll down to the end of this page for more information.

Our online forum lets you exchange tips on coping, ask questions, share experiences and talk through concerns online.

6. Coping with life after treatment

Finishing your hospital-based treatment can feel like a real achievement. But many people find it difficult to adjust to life after treatment.

You may find it useful to:

  • Read our information on life after treatment
  • Download our free Becca app for real-life stories and tips on life with and beyond primary breast cancer - see the bottom of this page for more information
  • Consider a Moving Forward course
  • Read stories from others who've been through breast cancer

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in October 2021. The next planned review begins in October 2023.

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    Call our free helpline

    If you have any concerns about breast cancer, or just want to talk, our specialist nurses are here for you.

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    Explore ways to talk to our nurses

    It can be difficult to talk to someone in person about breast cancer concerns. Explore other ways you can ask a question.

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Someone Like Me

You never have to face breast cancer alone. Find somebody who understands what you're going through with Someone Like Me.

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Becca - your free breast cancer support app

If you’re living with or beyond primary breast cancer, Becca is for you. Read trusted information and inspiring true stories.

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