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5 Strategies to Cope with the Ongoing Stress of MBC

With metastatic breast cancer, coping with stress can be an evolving process.

Medically reviewed in May 2022

People who are living with MBC must cope with numerous stressors. There are the more obvious ones, such as the inherent stress of knowing you have cancer and the physical toll that cancer (and cancer treatment) takes on the body. There are also stressors like making treatment decisions, anxiety about imaging scans (sometimes called “scanxiety”), decisions about work, paying for cancer treatment, and keeping up with responsibilities to family and loved ones.

It’s a lot to take on, but there are strategies that can help.

Continue learning
Continuing to learn more about MBC, the ways it can impact your life, and the treatments available for MBC can help you make more informed decisions about your care, and help you be a better advocate for yourself when faced with a difficult decision.

Be an active participant in your care
While there are many great information sources available online, every case of MBC is different from the next, and your healthcare team should be your best source of information. If you haven’t already, connect with an oncology social worker through your hospital, cancer care center, or breast cancer advocacy organization. If necessary, consider getting a second opinion from a different healthcare team.

Get and stay organized
Managing the paperwork that accompanies cancer can be overwhelming. Develop a system for keeping relevant and important information together and readily accessible. This includes your medical records, the report from your initial diagnosis, copies of test results, insurance information, notes from your appointments, and records on what therapies you’ve used.

Try different coping strategies
Just as treating MBC is an ongoing process that may require different therapies at different times, coping with the stress of MBC is an ongoing experience, and you may want to employ different strategies at different times. Coping strategies are anything that helps minimize or reduce stress. A coping strategy can be as simple as making time to listen to music or play with a pet. Journaling, mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga, counseling, and participating in support groups are other coping strategies that are recommended for people with cancer. Taking care of yourself with exercise, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep should always be a focus.

Keep talking
You may feel different at different times, and it’s important to be honest about how you are feeling with the people in your life. This includes how you are feeling physically as well as how you are feeling mentally. Keeping feelings to yourself can add to stress and sharing how you are feeling can help strengthen your relationships. Mentioned in the previous paragraph, support groups and counseling can be helpful if you need someone to talk to.

Sources:
Living Beyond Breast Cancer. "Depression, anxiety, and metastatic breast cancer."
Catherine E. Mosher, Courtney Johnson, et al. "Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Qualitative Analysis of Physical, Psychological, and Social Sequelae."
Susan G. Komen. "Quality of Life - Metastatic Breast Cancer."
MedicalXpress. "Most breast cancer patients have help choosing treatments."
Lucretia Hurley-Browning. "What is Scanxiety?" Penn Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center. October 26, 2018.
Breastcancer.org. "Scanxiety and Metastatic Breast Cancer."
Breastcancer.org. "Working After a Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis."
Susan G. Komen. "Newly Diagnosed With Metastatic Breast Cancer."
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "Tips for Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer."
Cancer.Net. "Clearing the Clutter: Tips for Organizing Medical Information."
Susan G. Komen. "Treatments for Metastatic Breast Cancer."
Susan G. Komen. "Coping With Stress."
Breast Cancer Network Australia. "Living Well."
Cancer.Net. "Managing Stress."
Breast Cancer Network Australia. "Metastatic from the start."
Breastcancer.org. "Talking to Family and Friends About Metastatic Breast Cancer."

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