The Psychosocial Aspect

Understanding your psychosocial reaction and seek support

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be overwhelming to a woman, and to her loved ones. During treatment or the process of recovery, patients often experience emotional turmoil as a result of physical, emotional and social changes.

They might ask questions like, “What went wrong with me? How will my partner feel about me? Am I still loveable? Can I really get through all these treatments? Why am I having mood swings?”

Be assured that these thoughts and feelings are natural and normal, especially when people are faced with challenging situations. Let’s share with you some ideas on coping with cancer that will help you regain some control and learn to accept your feelings.

  • Understanding your emotions

Think about the following questions and write down your responses:
How do I feel about myself?
When do I feel okay, and not okay? 
Why do I feel so alone?
Why do I feel guilty?
Am I angry? What am I angry about? Who am I angry with? 
What am I anxious about? 
What am I afraid of?

  • Coping with your emotions

Certainly when we feel sick and confused it is hard to be happy and energetic. We may have negative feelings and let our thoughts run wild under stressful situations. However, how we think about things can influence our emotions. Negative thoughts are not only unhelpful in dealing with problems, but also upset our emotions. Instead, try to think positively and rationally in an attempt to reduce negativity.

Q: How do I feel about myself?
How you view yourself is shaped by your thoughts and beliefs. You will see yourself in a positive and/ or negative way, and both will be biased. If you have a negative view of yourself you are probably being overly critical of yourself. Everyone is unique, lovable and valuable. Love yourself!

Q: When do I feel good and bad? 
It is normal to feel bad and down when we are feeling defeated and out of control. However, try to focus on the good memories of happy moments and appreciate the positive relationships in your life.

Q: Why do I feel so alone?
You may feel very alone the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, when you are undergoing treatment, when you think your loved ones just don’t understand how you feel. In fact, you are not alone. There are many women who are experiencing, and have been through, similar situations. Loved ones often want to help, but they just don’t know what to do. Try to open up the lines of communication and talk to your loved ones about how you feel.

The Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation is here to support you in your moments of need. You can always call us for advice, support and counselling.

Q: Why do I feel guilty?
It is normal to feel upset, but remember - it is not your fault that you have cancer. No one can or should be blamed. The cause of cancer is usually unknown so there is no reason to feel guilty, although it can be hard to get rid of these feelings.

Q: Am I angry? What am I angry about? Who am I angry with?
Anger is often an emotional response due to a perceived threat to the self. You might find some relief in talking to someone about how you feel. Try to find someone who is a good listener that you are comfortable to express your feelings to. Writing down your thoughts and emotions can also help to release and clarify your feelings. Don’t let anger take charge of you, but rather assert control of it.

Q: What am I anxious about? 
Fear of the unknown can be overwhelming. You may seek advice and information from health professionals, talk to your doctor about your concerns, join a support group to meet and communicate with others who are experiencing similar challenges. Doing relaxation exercises regularly can reduce tension when we experience anxiety.

  • Remembering who you are

A diagnosis of breast cancer can turn your world upside down, it can challenge your self-confidence and alter your image of self. However, there are things you can try to do to feel less out control.

    • Listen to those who have been through breast cancer before you, telling you that you are not going to be defeated, that you can fight back and that you will live a quality life.
    • Try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible, but be mindful of how your body feels and take breaks when you feel you want to.
    • Try to maintain a positive social life - meet with friends and have fun, talk about things other than breast cancer to take your mind off it, even for just a while.
    • Tell your loved ones and family that you are capable of making your own choices and decisions.  Take control.


  • Seeking social support

Women with breast cancer are faced with changes and challenges both in their own lives and in the lives of those close to them. You may find it difficult to handle these changes, but hiding does not help. Research has shown that breast cancer patients with extensive social networks tend to have better overall survival rates than those who are socially isolated, which highlights the beneficial effects of care and support from friends and relatives. Seek support from your social circle, try not to be fearful or embarrassed, try to be open and positive.

    • Maintain regular contact with your friends and family. They can provide a caring and supportive network. You may let them know how you appreciate what they can do or have done for you.
    • Share your feelings with positive and encouraging people. Spend less time with people that let you down or depress you.
    • Join a breast cancer support group where you may share your feelings and mutual support. You may find it helps to discuss your concerns, learn about coping skills and effects of treatment from those in a similar situation.
    • Join a breast cancer volunteer group. Caring for and serving others in need in the community can provide meaningful engagement.
    • Take a trip with someone you love to relax and reinvigorate yourself.
    • Seek spiritual support. If you are religious you may wish to seek support from your place of prayer, if not, perhaps reading some spiritual material can help you feel more at peace.