Topic: Anxiety

Forum: Not Diagnosed But Worried — For those who are experiencing symptoms or received concerning test results, but haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Posted on: May 25, 2017 01:31PM

Posted on: May 25, 2017 01:31PM

MTwoman wrote:

Hi, I've been NED for 14 years and have been a therapist for 17 years, so I have a lot of varied experience dealing with anxiety. Anxiety is just awful and can not only be debilitating, but can keep us from being able to take in and process information just when we need to be at our best. Too little stress can leave us bored, but too much stress/anxiety can leave us with panic, unusual amounts of anger and/or the inability to "perform" at our best. In the "not diagnosed but worried" category, anxiety can mean that we aren't able to hear our medical providers when they give us good news, or we aren't able to rationally discern what information is good and credible scientific evidence and what information is unscientific and only inflames our anxiety. It may impair our ability to listen, remember, read and comprehend our personal risks, our treatment options and our ability to calm ourselves, even if we have been found to have no evidence of disease.

Image result for anxiety curve

So how do you know if you are too anxious? Look at the stress curve above. Do you feel fatigued or exhausted? Are you sleeping well? Can you turn your mind to something else when you need to focus on another task? Or is your anxiety all you can think about. Are you eating properly? Or have you lost your appetite. Are you able to engage in activities that reduce your feeling of anxiety/stress? If you are able to concentrate on something else for periods of time, and utilize good coping skills to reduce your feelings of stress, then you'd fall in the optimal performance stage. If your normal patterns of sleep, energy and appetite have been disrupted, then you would fall in the distress stage.

I am going to suggest some strategies for each category, and am hoping that others will chime in with what works for them. What I'd like to see is a thread where anyone who is new to the experience of breast cancer or other breast health issues, has a place to refer to for concrete suggestions for managing their anxiety. There is no judgment here, as we've all experienced anxiety (to some extent) in our own journeys.

Stress occurs when perceived pressure on a person is greater than their ability to sustain resilience. The following skills can be used to improve and maintain your resilience:

  1. Practice distraction: deep clean something; do a home project that you've been wanting to do but haven't gotten around to; binge watch netflix; if you like to cook or bake, make a complicated recipe that takes your full concentration.
  2. Exercise: studies have shown that at little as 20 minutes of walking can bring down your stress response and walking in nature has a more robust response
  3. Regular relaxation: listen to a relaxation cd or use an app, try guided imagery, practice counting your breathe, practice yoga, try mindfulness or meditation, take a hot shower or bath, get a massage
  4. Use good self-care: make sure you are getting good nutrition and good sleep

For those of you who find that the above strategies aren't enough to reduce you anxiety to a tolerable level or for those of you who have pre-existing anxiety issues.

  1. Talk to your primary care provider (or psychiatrist if you have one) about medication options, both long term and short term; for both anxiety and sleep
  2. Think about getting into therapy and learn cognitive behavioral techniques to address your anxiety
  3. Find a group that lets you connect to others who have experienced similar levels of anxiety and who may be able to share ideas about what has been effective for them.

For those who are here who have been diagnosed, there was a study recently released that found a statistically significant improvement in the recurrence anxiety of breast cancer survivors. See a summary here: https://community.breastcancer.org/forum/105/topics/855472?page=1#idx_1

I may review and revise this post at will without defining why, unless saying why is integral to the work. I would like to be able to add links and additional information as I find it.


Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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Oct 25, 2017 07:31AM MTwoman wrote:

Thanks Shreyapandey! I am glad that you were able to overcome your fear and be seen. Now you know that you don't have bc and can let go of that fear. :) Good luck!

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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Nov 6, 2017 04:36PM MTwoman wrote:

up

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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Nov 17, 2017 06:34PM Loveroflife wrote:

bump

My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9. Dx 8/25/2014, DCIS, 3cm, Stage 0, Grade 3, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR- Surgery 9/15/2014 Mastectomy: Left Dx 10/13/2014, IDC, <1cm, Stage IA, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+ Surgery 1/11/2015 Reconstruction (left): Tissue expander placement Surgery 5/13/2015 Reconstruction (left): Saline implant
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Jan 8, 2018 10:14PM Susaine wrote:

I am using a herbal product prepared from basil leaves. I had lowered index of anxiety.

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Jan 9, 2018 08:18PM MayDayMelK wrote:

How do you deal with the "probably" conflict? I had a mammogram today and it had a BIRAD III, "Probably benign." I can go in depth but basically I've had swelling, discharge, pain... and all that showed was "focal asymmetry" and the ultrasound couldn't find anything despite there being a palpable tiny lump. My aunt had DCIS, my grandmother had BC when she passed away, my mom had an abnormal mammogram but isn't following up... we've also had ovarian cancer and thyroid precancer in our family. When my family went through a genetic whole exome study for my little girl who is disabled- we were told to get into a cancer geneticist due to "variances of unknown significance" that they couldn't disclose because it was part of the study and found incidentally. For these reasons, the "probably" of the "probably benign" isn't comforting. I see my PCP next week, I guess we'll see what he says and if he send me to a specialist. :/

Hysterectomy, Stereotactic Biopsy, Columnar Cell Changes, Cysts, now waiting on MRI results.
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Jan 10, 2018 08:31PM MTwoman wrote:

MayDay, forgive me if this information is 'old news' to you, but findings classified in the BIRADS 3 category, equating to "probably benign" has a positive predictive value of less than 1% (meaning that less than 1% of those findings classified BIRADS 3 will be malignant). You can read more about that classification system here: http://breast-cancer.ca/bi-rads/

Your PCP (unless he has unusual extra experience/education) may not be the best one to help advise you in this. Also, unfortunately "variances of unknown significance" are just that, unknown. So that doesn't mean that your BIRADS 3 finding is any more nefarious than any other. Still, I do understand your concern and there is no harm in getting a consult with a Breast Specialist.

Dx 12/10/2002, DCIS, Right, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/3 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2- Surgery 12/19/2002 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel Surgery 12/23/2003 Reconstruction (right): Nipple reconstruction Surgery Reconstruction (right): Saline implant Surgery Reconstruction (right): Tissue expander placement Surgery Mastectomy: Right
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Jan 10, 2018 09:59PM MayDayMelK wrote:

With my insurance and the rural area I am in, I have to go back to my PCP for the results (even tho I got the report on my own from records day of) and it is up to him to refer me out. I had planned on seeing a breast specialist at some point to discuss prophylactic mastectomy if genetics came back positive. They told me at that time that it was a VUS because they hadn't determined if it was a negative change or what so I don't know if they'd have any more info on it now. I appreciate your help and information! I think something that drives my anxiety is that my youngest has a disorder that they said she only had a 1 in a million chance of having, as well as 3 other genetic changes that supposedly cannot exist together. We actually go in Feb to start testing through the NIH and Mayo clinic which will be a year long process probably.

I guess more than anything I was hoping my oophorectomy and hysterectomy would have bought me more time before I was panicked at abnormal findings again. <3

Hysterectomy, Stereotactic Biopsy, Columnar Cell Changes, Cysts, now waiting on MRI results.
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Jan 27, 2018 01:17PM jo6359 wrote:

Most major medical centers have an oncology social worker. The oncology social worker can assist you with financial issues, support groups, counseling, Etc. The first week I was diagnosed with breast cancer I connected with the oncology social worker at Mount Sinai Medical Center. The social worker was compassionate, kind and professional. . Susan Komen have support groups and mentoring programs. The mentoring programs can be done via email, text, phone and sometimes, even in person. Good Luck

Dx 1/29/2018, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 1/18 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+, FISHISHCISH Dx 1/29/2018, DCIS, Right, Stage 0 Targeted Therapy 2/15/2018 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Chemotherapy 2/15/2018 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Targeted Therapy 2/16/2018 Herceptin (trastuzumab)
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Jan 27, 2018 01:24PM jo6359 wrote:

My genetic testing also showed a variance of unknown significance. Both my MO and SO doctors said that it had no correlation to my BC. Later on down the road my sisters are going to be tested. Because my surgeon said he would be interested in seeing whether they all had this genetic abnormality.

Dx 1/29/2018, IDC, Right, 2cm, Stage IIB, Grade 2, 1/18 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+, FISHISHCISH Dx 1/29/2018, DCIS, Right, Stage 0 Targeted Therapy 2/15/2018 Perjeta (pertuzumab) Chemotherapy 2/15/2018 Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Taxotere (docetaxel) Targeted Therapy 2/16/2018 Herceptin (trastuzumab)
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Jan 28, 2018 06:20AM MayDayMelK wrote:

Jo thanks for the reply. We are going back for a Whole Genome Sequence test for my child since she is significantly disabled so they're going to see if they can put out feeling among the NIH for cases with BC that may have this fluke gene change. I met the surgeon last Wednesday and he ended up doing a biopsy on Thursday because he wasn't comfortable with my presentation and family history. Now we just wait. Story of my life lol

Hysterectomy, Stereotactic Biopsy, Columnar Cell Changes, Cysts, now waiting on MRI results.

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