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Coping with Cancer Diagnosis
Fact Sheet


Getting the Support You Need
Fact Sheet


For Friends & Family 

Living with breast cancer, you may feel sadness, fear, anger and confusion, along with many other emotions. These responses are normal. Some people find support groups or talking to a counselor or therapist helpful in coping with these feelings.

Learn more about support groups.

Signs of depression

For some, dealing with breast cancer can lead to serious depression and severe emotional distress. These feelings may be strongest the first year after diagnosis [33]. If the symptoms listed below last longer than two weeks, they are signs of clinical depression. It’s important to talk to a health care provider or see a therapist right away if you have [34-35]:

  • A constant sad mood on most days
  • A loss of pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
  • A loss of interest in work or hobbies
  • Poor concentration
  • Prolonged insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in eating habits
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
  • Frequent thoughts of death or a desire to die

Treatment for depression

Depression needs to be treated, just like the breast cancer itself. Your provider may prescribe short-term antidepressant therapy if you are going through a difficult period. However, be sure to talk to your oncologist before taking any medications for depression as some can interfere with breast cancer treatments (for example some types of antidepressants may interfere with the hormone therapy drug tamoxifen).

Updated 05/13/13


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