Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

A quick guide to what's on this page

Coping with breast cancer

It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of cancer, both practically and emotionally. You are likely to feel numb or scared, and perhaps confused and upset at first. As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of cancer brings, you may have to work out how to manage practically. Our coping with cancer section contains lots of information you may find helpful. There are sections about

  • Your feelings and talking about cancer
  • How you can help yourself
  • Who else can help you
  • Where to get practical and financial support


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Living with breast cancer section.


Coping with your diagnosis

It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of breast cancer, both practically and emotionally. At first, you may feel scared or numb, or perhaps upset and confused. Or you may feel that things are out of your control. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens.


How breast cancer can affect you physically

Breast cancer and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Most women will have surgery, which can affect the shape of one or both breasts and cause scarring. Such body changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends. The surgery may cause ongoing discomfort or soreness for some women. There is information about coping after breast cancer surgery in this section. 

Some hormone therapy treatments can cause aching in the joints or bones. If you have this, let your doctor or nurse know so that they can prescribe painkillers for you.

Another problem you may have to cope with is feeling very tired and lethargic some of the time, especially for a while after treatment or if the breast cancer is advanced. There is information about fatigue and cancer and treating cancer fatigue in the section about coping physically with cancer.

A review of studies about exercise after cancer treatment reported in February 2012. It found that appropriate exercise had healthy effects on the body and helped women to feel better after breast cancer treatment. It also helped to reduce tiredness (fatigue) and depression for some women. If you are interested in exercising it is important to speak to your cancer specialist or breast care nurse.

If you are having a sexual relationship, one or all of these changes may affect your sex life. There is information about how cancer can affect your sex life in the coping with cancer section. There is information about pregnancy and breast cancer in this section. We also have information about how cancer drugs may affect fertility in the coping physically with cancer section. There is information about preserving fertility during breast cancer treatment in this section.


Coping practically with breast cancer

As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of breast cancer brings, you may also have to work out how to manage practically. There may be money matters to sort out. You may need information about financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants.

Who do you tell that you have cancer? And how do you find the words? You may also have children to think about. We have information about talking to people about your cancer and how and what to tell children.

Remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. Do ask for help if you need it though. Your doctor or specialist nurse will know who you can contact to get some help. They can put you in touch with professionals who are specially trained in supporting people with cancer. These people are there to help and want you to feel that you have support. So use them if you feel you need to.

You may need to have access to support staff, such as a breast care nurse or dietician. Social workers can help you with information about your entitlement to sick pay and benefits. If you live alone, a social worker may be able to help by organising convalescence when you first go out of hospital.


More information about coping with breast cancer

The coping with cancer section has lots of helpful information. There are sections about

If you would like more detailed information about coping with breast cancer, contact our cancer information nurses. They would be happy to help.

You can also contact the organisations on our breast cancer organisations list. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you. They may also be able to put you in touch with a support group. There is also a breast cancer reading list

You may find it helpful to look at our section about counselling. Counselling organisations can tell you more about counselling and help you find sources of emotional support in your area.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or go through My Wavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 4 out of 5 based on 6 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 29 October 2012