- Evelyn Aizenberg Psy.D, LMFT
Getting diagnosed with breast cancer can bring up an emotional turmoil that not only affects a woman's psychological well-being, but can also affect her physical health as well as.
According to the American Cancer's Society, about 280,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in women each year. Many of these women do not have a family history of breast cancer, and so this diagnosis can be a devastating shock. Distress typically continues even after the initial shock of diagnosis has passed. As women begin what is often a lengthy treatment process, they may find themselves faced with new issues. For example, their personal relationships may be turmoil. They may be very worried about their symptoms, treatment, and mortality. They may face discrimination from employers or insurance companies.
Factors like these can contribute to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
The primary goal in psychological treatment for women dealing with breast cancer is to help them cope with the physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes associated with cancer as well as with medical treatments that can be painful and traumatic.
Some women may need help with explaining their illness to their children or with dealing with a partner’s response. Others may need help with choosing the right hospital or medical treatment. For still others, it may be on how to control stress, anxiety, or depression.
By teaching patients problem-solving strategies in a supportive environment, therapy help women work through their grief, fear, and anxiety. For many women, this life-threatening crisis eventually proves to be an opportunity for life-enhancing personal growth.
While support groups can be helpful in meeting other women who are going through the same experience, individual therapy has been found the preferred treatment for depression in breast cancer patients according to research https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25157474/
As a breast cancer survivor myself, I help women deal with the initial shock, as well as helping them walk through what might sometimes feel like an overwhelming journey. I help empower women to make more informed choices in the face of often-conflicting advice, and can help them communicate more effectively with their health care providers.
Even after medical treatment ends, help may still be needed. Emotional recovery may take longer than physical recovery and is sometimes less predictable. Despite society's expectations of getting everything back to normal as soon as possible, breast cancer survivors need time to create a new self-image that incorporates both the experience and their changed bodies. I help women achieve that goal and learn to cope with such issues as fears about recurrence as well a possible shift in life priorities that occurs as a result of the experience.