Breast Cancer’s Emotional Impact

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is important to understand the emotional impact breast cancer may have. Many women with breast cancer face significant emotional issues during and after their treatments.

Anxiety, depression and fear are often evident. One may worry that their cancer will return, be concerned about their physical change, or they may be concerned about the impact of their diagnosis on their family, social or work life. The physical, emotional, and social effects of the disease can seem overwhelming.

The Cancer Experience

Fear of recurrence is extremely common and normal. Some women become hyper-vigilant in looking for any sign that the cancer may have returned. They may second-guess and worry about every symptom. Discussing the fears with their physician or therapist can be very helpful.

Breast cancer survivors typically report some level of emotional distress during their treatment. If the physical side effects are life altering, it is normal to feel extreme sadness or even anger. Grieving the loss of a breast or breasts is an important part of the emotional healing process.

The cancer experience can greatly impact one’s self-esteem and body image. Physical changes such as hair and weight loss or the loss of one or both breasts can leave one feeling like they have lost themselves.

Family support can be critical in emotional healing. Individual as well as couple and family therapy is highly recommended and extremely beneficial for all those impacted. Medical Family Therapy significantly enhances treatment for major and chronic illness such as breast cancer.

Breast cancer has been known to cause some women to feel isolated and to withdraw from many of their normal social interactions. Sometimes, typical social supports are unable to provide the kind of help one may need or want. A breast cancer support group can be extremely beneficial to most.

Some breast cancer patients develop a sense of helplessness or hopelessness when their stress becomes overwhelming or they are physically feeling bad. Those able to utilize some of the strategies and techniques listed below have lowered their anxiety and depression levels, leading them to feel less overwhelmed.

  • Relaxation
  • Stress Management
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cancer Education
  • Support Groups
  • Medication
  • Exercise
  • Healthy Diet


American Cancer Society:
National Cancer Institute:

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Breast Cancer’s Emotional Impact

Staci Lee Schnell, M.S., C.S.,LMFT

Staci Lee Schnell earned a master of science degree in Family Therapy as well as a clinical specialist degree in Family Systems Health Care. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Staci is the clinical director and president of the Counseling and Wellness Center of South Florida


APA Reference
Schnell, S. (2015). Breast Cancer’s Emotional Impact. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Oct 2015
Published on All rights reserved.