Treatment for ABC is life-long, and it can be difficult to cope with the many changes that need to be implemented, and learning to manage treatment symptoms such as poor appetite and physical changes, pain management and hospitalisation can be overwhelming.
It’s important to care for emotional, psychological and spiritual health as well. This includes consideration of palliative care options – palliative care refers to specialised medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists, as well as family members who work together to focus on providing patients with relief from their symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. Palliative care also improves patients’ ability to tolerate medical treatments, as well as helps them to have more control over their care by improving their understanding of treatment options.
ABC patients may experience difficulty in controlling their physical symptoms as the cancer cells would have already affected other parts of their body. These uncontrolled physical symptoms can affect a patient’s emotional wellbeing.
Fear of death, guilt over the high cost of treatment, anger over having to deal with cancer again, resentment that others can carry on with life as usual, depression that she has been afflicted – all these emotions and more are normal for a patient with ABC. Nonetheless, helping them maintain hope and positivity is also important and can be attained through finding satisfaction in spending a day with friends, being pain-free, trying new things or simply enjoying small moments of pleasure – simple things which can make treatment more bearable. In addition, patients should be able to express emotions freely by having someone to talk to, as well as share their thoughts and emotions with to help alleviate sadness and other negative emotions.
Likewise, loved ones and other people may also need time to adjust to a patient’s needs. They may feel fearful of losing her, distressed over her pain, or uncertain of what they can do to help, and some may prefer to stay away. Patients may feel hurt by the behaviour of others, or find it hard to accept help from those around them. While they may want to maintain their independence as much as possible, it’s important that patients allow others to help up to a level that they are comfortable with, while assuring them that their care and support is appreciated.
Being involved in a community can help to ease feelings of isolation and provide emotional support. These communities can be related to breast cancer or ABC, such as patient support groups that foster closeness and understanding through sharing experiences.
shared experience can foster closeness and understanding, or even offer patients the chance to be supportive for others in similar circumstances. For some, counselling or speaking with a spiritual advisor may help to address deep-seated fears and anxieties, giving patients a chance to talk about things they maywant to share with their loved ones. Even activities that are completely not related to breast cancer, such as pursuing a hobby or learning a new skill, can help relieve stress and provide an emotional release.
It is common for patients to be concerned about their body image. Often patients who have had mastectomies try to maintain or recapture what made them feel feminine and desirable before the removal. For women, breasts are viewed as a important part of their beauty and femininity.
If a breast has been removed, she may be insecure about whether her partner will accept her and find her sexually pleasing. Consequently, intimate relationships may present a challenge.
ABC and its treatment can also affect how a patient feels about herself and her body and how she relates intimately to her spouse or significant other. Lack of sexual desire is a common issue as the anxiety of coping with the disease, along with side effects of fatigue and pain affect how she feels sexually. A study on ABC found that one in three women feel that their relationship with their spouse or partner was negatively impacted by their ABC diagnosis.
Management of side effects that interfere with intimacy can help a patient feel better overall, which may in turn help her feel more desirable and more interested in sexual intimacy. Open communication with her spouse or significant other is essential to maintaining a good intimaterelationship. Sharing concerns and fears, as well as talking about other ways to be intimate other than with sexual intercourse may help with overcoming this challenge.
Some patients use complementary therapies – massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, reflexology or homeopathy – alongside their conventional medical treatments to help improve the side effects of treatment.
They can also help people to feel better physically and emotionally and improve quality of life. It is also an opportunity to meet other patients and share their stories. Complementary therapies are not used to treat or cure the cancer. They also are not to be mistaken for ‘alternative’ therapies, which some people use instead of conventional treatments for breast cancer.
Studies have found that a good relationship benefits both the patient and their partner in trying times. It’s important to find a balance between them and discuss what both parties need from each other. If a patient faces difficulties in talking about her treatment and the changes it will cause, a relationship counsellor may be able to help.
Relationship with Your Partner
Studies have found that a good relationship benefits both the patient and their partner in trying times such as cancer therapy. However,a patients’ relationship with their partner will undergo changes as they go through treatment – their partner may be optimistic, over-protective or indifferent but it’s important to find a balance and discuss what both parties need most from each other. If a patient faces difficulties in talking about her treatment and the changes it will cause, a relationship counsellor may be able to help.
Relationship with Children
Talking to children can help them understand what is happening – even if young children are unable to fully understand cancer and its consequences, they are able to sense that something is wrong. Hence for young children, patients should explain their illness in simple language, tell them how it affects herand remain positive for their sake. It will also help to maintain a regular routine, which is reassuring for young children, and allow them time and personal space to deal with their feelings.
Relationship with Teenagers
Teenagers, although they are better able to comprehend the situation, may feel anger, guilt, fear or grief, and react in different ways; from becoming withdrawn to getting more involved in caring for the patient. Their way of coping with the situation may sometimes upset the patient but it does not mean that they do not care. Patients should try to spare some time for their teenage children, so they don’t feel neglected, and ask how they are coping and if they have any questions. Patients should help their teenage children to feel welcome around them, whether by spending time together or helping them and other family members.
Relationship with Adult Children
Adult children, especially those with their own families, find it difficult to deal with the news that their parent has cancer, as they are already burdened with concerns over their own family and career. To help them cope, try to involve adult children in decision-making.
Patients should be able to express emotions freely by having someone to talk to