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 04:31PM

Posted on: May 25, 2017 04:31PM

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:

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 12/20/2002 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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Mar 28, 2019 01:13AM catriona7899 wrote:

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May 22, 2019 06:27AM godisone wrote:

hi all. being anxious is not my favourite past time but don't know what to do when i feel worried about my life expectancy and the limited time i might have with my loved one. i haven't yet lived my life to its content , i haven't travelled the world or seen Nothern lights for that matter, i am not a mother yet and i am yet to buy my dream house with my oh so caring and loving husband. i am only 4 years into this magical institution of marriage and i am not done.

dont know if i need more answers or prayers, but there is something preoccupying my mind all the time and there is no respite. it feels awful. when i want to google about various dresses to buy and locations to see or how to learn a new language etc i always end up researching about cancer and its symptoms (not to forget, the conclusion). no doubt its depressive and saddening. i think it might be reducing my life span due to stress but cant do much about it. i feel helpless when i am not researching about cancers.

this forum and its members keep me motivated and i feel like conversing with a loved one, like a friend at a distant place. i cant express how blessed i feel to be part of this community where i can freely express about everything i am carrying with me, in my heart. i don't know what would have i done without your support. thank you for being there.

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Jul 14, 2019 06:29PM Kareen1 wrote:

Thanks for sharing your insight on the subject. I suffer from anxiety and depression, but I don’t like how the meds make me feel. Some days I do feel better when I take it. They say it takes about 6 weeks to feel it’s full effect. I find the techniques you mentioned are good. I do guided meditation and, walking in nature is so healing as well.

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Sep 26, 2019 11:04PM futura wrote:

@scared to death- Below cognitive behavior therapy strategies are from How to Manage Breast Cancer Screening/Diagnosis Anxiety

and they helped me a lot and I hope they help you too.The article is written by Shawn M. Burn Ph.D.

Most psychologists treat anxiety with cognitive-behavior therapy strategies. The general idea is to target your anxiety-producing thoughts with their rational counterparts. Many of us unnecessarily "catastrophize" and have ourselves sick, bald, and leaving behind loved ones before we've even had our tests or received our test results. We start preparing for an ordeal that may not even come to pass. As my grandmother Daisy would say, we "borrow trouble." We can use CBT techniques to reduce our anxiety. For instance, when we feel agitated we can remind ourselves:

  1. More women have false positives than not, so it is quite likely that I don't have cancer.
  2. False positives are more common in women like me who have dense breasts, a history of breast biopsies, and a familial history of breast cancer.
  3. If I have regular mammograms over a 10-year period, it is likely I will experience a false positive at least once.
  4. Only 12.4 percent of American women develop breast cancer.
  5. Only .5 percent of women called back after their initial screening for further testing will be found to have cancer.
  6. My anxiety is worth the peace of mind I will experience if it's nothing.
  7. I am choosing breast cancer screening/diagnostics despite the stress so that if I do have cancer, it will be detected early when treatment is not as big a deal.
  8. If it is cancer, it is not necessarily a death sentence. The five-year survival rate is almost 90 percent. It's estimated that about 19 percent of breast cancers would never become "clinically significant" if left untreated.
  9. I know more women that have survived breast cancer than have died from it.
  10. If it is breast cancer, it is likely it can be treated without chemotherapy, especially if it is found early.
  11. Despite what I've seen on TV and in movies, breast cancer treatment (even chemo) would not necessarily make me extremely ill and bald, only to die anyway.
  12. Whatever the outcome, I can handle it as I have so many other difficult things. If I handled [insert life challenge], I can handle breast cancer.
  13. Like other challenges I have confronted, if there is a challenge to be faced, it will make me stronger and more resilient.
  14. This experience is a reminder of my mortality and what's important to me, and in that way it's an opportunity for personal growth.
  15. This experience reminds me that I have friends and family that love me and will be there for me if I need them.
ADH - 05/2018
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Sep 27, 2019 09:30AM Fightergrl78 wrote:

I’m right there with’s a chore to eat, to clean and even care for my little guys. I hate that I have no answers and already feel “sick”

This process has been ongoing since my callback Sept 10th. My husband was amazing the first few days but I feel like he’s withdrawing a bit.

The clinic I want to go if it is the “c” is 4hrs away...and that is stressing me out too...because it will be winter and I don’t have housing

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Sep 29, 2019 06:56PM TechieGirl wrote:

Futura- your list is so good and true. Thank you. I needed to read this and will again before my biopsy tomorrow mornong

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May 21, 2020 09:40AM berries wrote:


I have found myself in a very dark, deep and real place. Its like I'm in a dark hole with no ladder. I'm not sure how deep the hole is to climb out nor do I see any light. The past two weeks, I've been in the process of scans to understand a few new bone deformities that have shown up on my CT, just three months out from treatment. Nothing makes sense and my doctors aren't sure either. The past 7 months of grueling treatment, hospital visits, days spent in bed instead of with my husband. I don't know how to be 'okay' with this new normal. I don't know how to sit with this fear knowing that my husband will outlive me and at 35, I might not make it to retirement so we can spend our days together with the family that we've dreamed.

How does someone take something so devastating and heartbreaking and just live with it? Is that answer, you just do? If it is, what if you just can't?

Dx 8/6/2019, DCIS/IDC, Left, 5cm, Stage IB, Grade 1, 4/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 9/18/2019 Mastectomy; Mastectomy (Left); Reconstruction (Right) Chemotherapy 10/24/2019 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 2/17/2020 Reconstruction (Left): Silicone implant Radiation Therapy 3/31/2020 Whole breast: Breast, Lymph nodes Chemotherapy 4/30/2020 Xeloda (capecitabine) Hormonal Therapy 5/8/2020 Arimidex (anastrozole)

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