Getting Support for Breast Cancer
How Can I Make My Life Better?
If breast cancer is causing you stress, the most important step you can take is to seek help as soon as you feel less able to cope. (See "What Types Of Help Are Available?" below.) Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of your illness. Learning to manage stress will help you maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook on life.
How Do I Keep Track Of My Medical Information?
Becoming educated about breast cancer and your care can be confusing, especially with any doctors and other health care providers involved. Here are some tips for keeping track:
- Do not be afraid to ask your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider to repeat any instructions or medical terms that you don't understand. Your providers should always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
- Make use of resources and support services offered by your hospital and in the community. Learning more about your disease will help you feel more comfortable with your treatment.
- Ask your family and friends to help you sort through the information you receive.
- Talk with other patients and families about breast cancer and its treatment.
What Types Of Help Are Available to Breast Cancer Patients?
There are many sources of help available to provide support for breast cancer patients and their families. Among them are:
Social Workers. Social workers are just one part of the caregiving team who can offer treatment in a compassionate setting. They can help you and your family discuss any concerns about your diagnosis, treatment, or personal situation.
Social workers can provide education, counseling regarding lifestyle changes, and referrals to community or national agencies and support groups. Your social worker can also help your family find temporary lodging in your community, provide information about community resources, and help you with any other needs.
Individual Counseling. Sometimes people have problems that are better addressed in a one-on-one atmosphere. By participating in individual counseling, you may feel more comfortable expressing sensitive or private feelings you have about your illness and its impact on your lifestyle and relationships.
Counseling services can help patients and their families discuss issues of concern and develop and enhance coping abilities. In addition, mental health care providers can create a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control over your life and improve your quality of life, something everyone deserves. If necessary, medicine to treat depression may be prescribed.
Support Groups. Support groups are a very useful sharing experience. They provide an environment where you can learn new ways of dealing with your illness.
Sometimes, others who have been through similar experiences can explain things differently than your health care providers. You may also want to share approaches you've discovered with them. And you will gain strength in knowing that you are not facing hardships alone.
Remember that others may share information or experiences that do not apply to you. Never replace your physician's advice with that given to another patient.
The American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program offers special help to breast cancer patients. Trained volunteers, who have had breast cancer themselves, visit patients at the doctor's request to lend support. Call 1-800-ACS-2345 for more information.
Financial Counseling. A financial counselor can answer questions you may have about financial issues related to your medical care.