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Breast cancer: Tips for family

A breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect the person with cancer, and family and friends will be called on for support and may need to make adjustments.

Here are some tips to help family and friends cope with a loved one’s diagnosis:

  • Feel free to ask the doctor questions if you accompany the patient to appointments and the patient gives you permission to do so.
  • Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behaviour and mood. Medication, discomfort and stress can cause someone with cancer to become depressed or angry.
  • Encourage the patient to be active and independent, as much as possible, to help regain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.
  • Be realistic about your own needs. Make sure you are sleeping enough, eating properly, and taking some time off for yourself. It is hard to offer much help when you are exhausted. If you take care of your needs, it may be easier to meet the needs of your loved one.
  • Do not hesitate to ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help.
  • Family members and friends of a person coping with cancer may also find themselves under a great deal of stress. To reduce your stress:
  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Do not rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 30, 2016

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