First of all, take a deep breath. A cancer diagnosis is accompanied by a barrage of emotions. When you hear the words “you have cancer,” it is very common to fear your life is over. More and more people are surviving breast and ovarian cancer, and there is a lot that you can do to help yourself after your diagnosis.

Take an active part in the development of your treatment plan. Partner with your doctor, and ask questions about your health and your course of treatment. Making changes in your lifestyle, including diet and exercise, can often be beneficial. Professionals in the areas of nutrition, physical/occupational therapy, and stress reduction can help you learn to supplement your medical treatment effectively.

Educate yourself. Different treatments – including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and alternative and complementary medicine – have different benefits, limitations, risks and side effects. Doing your own research at the library, online, or by speaking with others who have already experienced the course of treatment you are considering can help you make decisions that are right for you.


The effects of cancer aren’t only physical. It is important for you to make your social and emotional health a priority when developing your treatment plan.

Emotionally: It is very common to be afraid of the unknown, of losing control over your body and your life. Cancer can bring about a range of emotions, from anger to sadness and loneliness.

Socially: It’s easy to feel isolated when friends and relatives don’t know how to talk to you about your experience with cancer, especially if you feel pressured to put on a happy face for them. You may also need to make changes in the role that you play at work and at home, and this can create stress for you and for others around you.

Changes in self-image: Hair loss, mastectomy and breast reconstruction, loss of fertility and chronic physical issues, such as lymphedema, are possible consequences of treatment that can greatly affect the way that you view yourself. Learning to live with this new self-image is an important part of learning to live with cancer.

Connecting with other women who have had similar experiences is a supportive way to enhance your social and emotional well-being. Support groups offered by hospitals, cancer care organizations and online, as well as comprehensive cancer support communities such as Gilda’s Club are available to help you make these connections. The list of resources that follows will help you get started.








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