September 25, 2018 04:00 PM NPT
Women with breast cancer aren’t being told by health professionals they could develop long-term anxiety and depression after their diagnosis, leading charities have warned.
Breast Cancer Care and Mind are calling for better mental health support post-diagnosis after a survey found eight in 10 women with breast cancer in England were not told about how their diagnosis could impact their mental health.
Lauren Faye, 28 from Bristol, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016 and had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. She has since struggled with social isolation and anxiety.
“The biggest barrier to adapting to life after breast cancer was my anxiety. I completely stopped trusting my body and lived in fear of there being something wrong with me,” she said. “To this day, there’s always a worry festering in the back of my mind about the cancer coming back.”
Faye said her last hospital appointment felt like an anti-climax because she had been so caught up in finishing treatment that she didn’t anticipate how hard moving forward would be.
“I felt isolated from my friends as I had no energy to go out with them, and I had to watch from the sidelines as they all got on with their careers, relationships and lives,” she said.
“At the end of treatment, the impact of breast cancer on my mental health wasn’t even mentioned by my healthcare team, nor was I referred to support, let alone given any.”
It wasn’t until she called Breast Cancer Care’s helpline that her emotions were acknowledged and she realised her feelings were normal.
The survey of nearly 3,000 breast cancer patients revealed one third (33%) experience anxiety for the first time in their lives after their diagnosis and treatment and 8% had a panic attack for the first time as a result of their breast cancer diagnosis or treatment.
Worryingly, almost half of those surveyed (45%) experience continuous fear that the cancer may return, a fear that can severely impact day-to-day life.