Combating Fear Associated with Breast Cancer

By: TAMU Health Science Center College of Nursing
By: TAMU Health Science Center College of Nursing

College Station, TX A diagnosis of breast cancer is an emotionally staggering blow that one in eight women will receive in their lifetime. The shock is due largely to the manner in which 90 percent of women are diagnosed. They go in for a routine checkup or a mammogram feeling healthy and happy – and leave with a diagnosis of breast cancer feeling sad and expecting to become ill.

While this surveillance method allows for earlier and more effective treatment, it throws the now breast cancer survivor into a new world filled with mistrust of her body, says Deborah Arnold, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

The external stress of the cancer diagnosis contributes to internalized stress anxiety and fear. While others can share the treatment experience, the breast cancer survivor lives in fear each day.

While psychological stress has been widely linked to diminished immune system functioning, the good news is this negative mind-body connection can be reversed. Researchers are now examining methods capable of counteracting the effects of the internal distress. These approaches are aimed at taking ownership and internalizing positive states of being.

“If we are able to alter our way of thinking, our beliefs, or perspectives, there is the implication that we are changing our brains, and as a result, our body and physiological processes,” says Kevin Gosselin, Ph.D., assistant dean for research at the Texas A&M College of Nursing.

As opposed to being fearful, breast cancer patients can practice implementing the following positive mind-body tips into daily life:

Be Brave
According to research, being brave can rebuild your immune system. This resilience includes a sense of control over one’s quality of life and health; a strong commitment to one’s work, activities or relationships; and a view of stress as a challenge rather than a threat.

Be Assertive
Research demonstrates that people who assert their needs and feelings have stronger and more effective immune systems. They more readily resist and overcome a range of diseases associated with dysfunctional immunity – cancer being among them.

Be Loving and Trusting
Research shows that individuals who are strongly motivated to form relationships with others based on unconditional love and trust – rather than fear and frustration – have more vigorous immune systems and a reduced incidence of illness and disease.

Anxiety and fear inherent in breast cancer can be balanced. By choosing to alter the fear through being brave, assertive and, loving and trusting, breast cancer survivors can support the immune system and discover that there is a life to live on the other side of the diagnosis.


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