Breast cancer is prevalent in the United States, so many women will undergo a single or double mastectomy in their lifetime. If you are one of them, you already know that having a mastectomy will give you the best chance of a positive outcome. However, preparing for your procedure and getting used to your body after a mastectomy can take a toll on your emotional health and self-esteem. Here, Regional Cancer Care Associates takes a closer look at common emotional mastectomy effects and how to handle them.
Before a Mastectomy
After making the difficult decision to undergo a mastectomy, it’s completely normal for women to feel a flood of emotions. Many are concerned about whether they’re making the right decision and experience anxiety over their future without one or both of their breasts. This is a significant change, and it’s common for depression to set in – even before the procedure.
If you’re preparing for a mastectomy, the best thing you can do during this time is to seek out the support of your loved ones. You may also find solace in speaking with a professional psychologist or therapist with experience helping women with breast cancer.
After a Mastectomy
You’ve successfully undergone your mastectomy and are officially a breast cancer survivor, but now you’re faced with an entirely new set of challenges. Aside from the side effects that come along with healing from surgery, you’re adjusting to changes in appearance, how clothing fits, and many other unexpected changes. And for many survivors, this can be the most difficult part of the diagnosis.
Loss of positive self-image is among the most common emotional effects women confront after a mastectomy. Many survivors report that they feel less attractive and feminine, especially in the eyes of their partner. Along similar lines, they also experience negative effects on their sex life due to fears about their partner’s perception of their body. In these cases, it’s important to give yourself as much time as you need to heal – both mentally and physically. Having open discussions with your partner about your feelings will also help you adjust to life after a mastectomy.
Post-surgical depression is also common. For instance, many survivors of breast cancer find that it’s much more difficult to shop for clothes, undergarments, and even bathing suits. This can heighten feelings of loss and sadness, and can make you feel isolated from women who haven’t been diagnosed with breast cancer. Reach out to friends and loved ones who are also cancer survivors during this time. They can offer encouragement from a perspective of shared experience. And don’t forget the hobbies and activities you loved before your diagnosis. Immersing yourself in things you enjoy can help you feel more positive, confident, and strong.
Other Ways to Cope
In addition to counseling, many women benefit from joining a support group after breast cancer. You’ll be able to share your experiences with women who’ve gone through the same emotional and physical effects, and you’ll receive valuable advice from other survivors. You may also wish to learn more about reconstructive breast surgery at this time. Surgical reconstruction restores the appearance of the breast, which can help build confidence after a mastectomy.
And remember, your oncologist at Regional Cancer Care Associates is always on call to help you address any questions or concerns. For more information, contact us at one of our more than 30 locations in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey today.