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Breast Cancer and Social Stigma: How It Affects Mental Health

by YourDailyHunt.com
Breast Cancer and Social Stigma How It Affects Mental Health

Breast cancer survivors face numerous obstacles (including changes in body image) on their path to regaining physical and psychological health after diagnosis. The attribution of negative connotations to certain types of disease diagnosis is known as perceived health-related stigma (PHS). PHS is frequent in breast cancer patients and is linked to negative feelings, attitudes, and actions. This article highlights the most recent findings and new perspectives on PHS in breast cancer patients, as well as strategies for preventing this harmful process. Throughout this research, the effects of PHS on women with breast cancer, as well as PHS measures, predictors, and interventions, are examined in depth. Future research should focus on developing more effective instruments for evaluating PHS among breast cancer patients, investigating PHS predictors, as well as discussing potential therapies based on the predictors.

Breast cancer is a leading type of cancer in women, accounting for 14% of cancer cases among Indian women. Every four minutes, an Indian woman gets diagnosed with breast cancer, per the statistics. Both in rural and urban India, that is on the rise. Women in India have a 60 per cent post-cancer survival rate, compared to 80 per cent in the United States.

Stigma in Society

Breast cancer diagnosis in Indian women is delayed for a variety of causes. Many times, women are hesitant to seek medical treatment because they either fear the financial burden of medical care or those who simply prioritize the needs of their family as well as children over their own, says Roy, who adds that the situation is exacerbated when women have been divorced or widowed, because they often live alone without a support system, particularly for the older age group.

Not just is social stigma linked to a delay in detection or treatment, but it was also linked to body image difficulties. According to the experts, research shows that women suffering from breast cancer face body image concern comparable to women without breast cancer after or during treatment (worse if they have had a mastectomy).

Impact on the Psyche

When you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Many women experience depression as a result of the news, making it even more difficult for them all to adjust, start making the most of treatment, and tap into whatever social support resources are available, according to Roy, who advises women to keep in touch with a mental health professional from the time of early detection to the end of their treatment journey, as this can be extremely beneficial. She says that the main goal is to help and support people cope with the physical, mental, and lifestyle changes that come with cancer, and also medical treatment, which could be difficult and painful.

Emotional well-being

Emotional well-being is a term used to describe how people feel about themselves. One has every right to lament a loss or experience suffering, and mental health professionals believe it is perfectly OK to wonder why this is happening to you. It’s natural to feel this way, but remember that you are more than your cancer, according to Roy, who believes that one should be kind with oneself. Finding ways to feel good on the inside and out, as well as avoiding the BE POSITIVE trap, she says, is extremely beneficial.

You could discover problem-solving methods and work through your sorrow, fear, as well as other recurring emotions in a safe environment. According to Roy, a life-threatening catastrophe could even be a chance for life-enhancing human growth.

Managing adverse reactions

Chemotherapy often causes morning sickness as a side effect. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, meditation, and visualisation techniques are all recommended by doctors as helpful ways to treat nausea without the negative side effects of pharmaceuticals. Frequent mood swings, sleep difficulties, and memory changes are common adverse effects of intensive treatment. The side effects, combined with hormonal changes, can alter emotions, advises Roy, who adds that while all of these sensations are normal, recognising and addressing them when appropriate will help you cope better with the circumstance.

Terror of recurrence

The fear of cancer returning is frequent and understandable. Every discomfort and pain may make you wonder if your cancer has returned. There are a few things you can do to alleviate your anxieties.

– Recognize and accept your feelings. Talk to your doctor, a trustworthy friend, or other survivors about your anxieties.

– Add mindfulness or meditation into the daily routine. Anxiety, worry, and dread of recurrence can all be reduced by being aware of the moment.

– Be in charge of your health. Follow your doctor’s recommendations, including what tests you’ll need in the future or how often you should have them.

– Adhere to a healthy way of living. Eat healthily, get enough rest, and exercise frequently.

– Join a breast cancer survivor support network. Knowing other cancer survivors would make you feel less alone as you discover how they deal with similar concerns.

Support is also required for caregivers

Emotional rehabilitation is more time-consuming and unpredictable than physical recovery. Experts believe that not only patients but also their spouses, children, parents, including close friends who are active in caregiving, require physical and mental support and aid. Reaching out to a mental health expert to comprehend the therapy and manage the challenge of providing emotional and practical support while dealing with their concerns will help their mental wellbeing, Roy adds.


In conclusion, prior research has demonstrated that breast cancer is a highly stigmatized disease, with nearly all breast cancer survivors suffering varying degrees of PHS, which can lead to unhealthy behaviours. Healthcare practitioners need to be aware of PHS and also its possible effects on patients’ interactions with the medical system, and therefore should consider addressing PHS particularly while discussing the disease and treatment plan. All of the relevant findings could point to a widespread societal bias towards breast cancer, which could inhibit breast cancer patients seeking social support and make research among them hard. To address the situation, more effective therapies aiming at reducing unfavourable PHS effects in this population have emerged as a new and important challenge.

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