PTSD After a Cancer Diagnosis

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I have had some recent discussions with fellow cancer survivors about how they are dealing with the stress that comes from receiving a diagnosis and how it continues through treatment and even after one may get a “no evidence of disease” test result. And how does one feel when cancer recurs after many years of being cancer-free and being caught off guard when it comes back? This seems to be an aspect that most people never consider, don’t understand and feel so lonely in their fears when they are trying to deal with decisions about their treatment or concern about the next test outcome.

“If you truly want the best outcome for not only your treatment but also for your life, now and in the future, be sure to put yourself first and don’t be afraid to ask for all of the help that you need – always!”Barbara Jacoby

Most patients will not receive any support or help from their medical community after a diagnosis since emphasis is always focused on treatment of the disease. And as I look farther and deeper into this subject, I have been learning so much about this aspect of a patient’s mental health and the issue of post traumatic stress disorder which is normally considered to only happen after combat in military service. But, such is not the case.

According to an article from breastcancer.org, it is described as follows:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can be brought on by a traumatic event. PTSD can happen after a life-threatening situation, such as breast cancer diagnosis or cancer recurrence. PTSD can affect your ability to cope with life’s daily chores and inconveniences and make it difficult to function.

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • nightmares or flashbacks about the cancer experience
  • continuously focusing on the cancer experience
  • avoiding people, places, and events that remind you of the experience
  • trouble sleeping
  • extreme irritableness
  • intense feelings of fear
  • being overly excitable
  • feeling helpless or hopeless
  • shame or guilty feelings
  • bouts of crying
  • feeling emotionally numb
  • sadness or depression
  • loss of appetite
  • trouble maintaining personal relationships
  • self-destructive behavior (alcohol or drug abuse, for example)
  • memory problems
  • concentration problems
  • being startled or frightened easily
  • getting no joy from activities you used to enjoy
  • hallucinations

Most people don’t realize that not only does the cancer take a mental toll on a patient but also when you don’t have a very supportive community around you, the situation becomes so much more difficult. Therefore, every patient should understand that they are not alone in this aspect and that they have every right to request a medical professional to be added to their team to help them to deal with this treatment need. If you truly want the best outcome for not only your treatment but also for your life, now and in the future, be sure to put yourself first and don’t be afraid to ask for all of the help that you need – always!