The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Coping with Stress

People diagnosed with breast cancer have many unique sources of stress.

Here, we discuss some healthy ways to help deal with this stress.

Social support

Social support is the emotional support, practical help, advice and other benefits you get from interactions with people in your life, including:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Spiritual advisors
  • Co-workers and supervisors
  • Health care providers
  • Other people who’ve had cancer

Support groups

Many people diagnosed with breast cancer expand and strengthen their emotional support systems by joining a support group.

Learn more about support groups.

Benefits of social support

People who’ve had breast cancer can benefit from social support. Whether it’s informal support from family and friends, or more formal support from group or individual therapy, social support can improve your quality of life [15-16].

Breast cancer survivors who have more social support tend to cope better emotionally than those with little support [106-111].

Learn more about the benefits of social support.

Learn more about quality of life during breast cancer treatment and quality of life after breast cancer treatment.

Counseling (psychotherapy)

Talking with a trained mental health provider (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or clinical social worker) can reduce distress and improve mental well-being and quality of life for people who’ve had breast cancer [112].

Some people prefer one-on-one counseling. Others prefer counseling in a group setting.

Mental health counseling may combine techniques such as coping skills training and relaxation exercises to help reduce stress.

Learn more about support groups.

Mindfulness meditation (mindfulness-based stress reduction)

With mindfulness meditation (including mindfulness-based stress reduction), you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, but do not interpret or judge them.

Mindfulness meditation uses breathing methods and may include guided imagery as well as other relaxation and stress reduction techniques.

Some findings show mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, fear of breast cancer recurrence and fatigue in people who’ve had breast cancer [96,113-115]. It may also improve quality of life [114].

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a special type of mental health counseling that may combine techniques such as relaxation therapy.

Some research findings show cognitive behavioral therapy may reduce fear of breast cancer recurrence, anxiety and distress for breast cancer survivors [5,112,116-118]. It may also help reduce fatigue and insomnia [78,119-125].

Few people are trained to give cognitive behavioral therapy.

Physical activity (exercise)

Being active is a healthy way for breast cancer survivors to deal with daily stress. Regular exercise (such as yoga) can help reduce stress and anxiety and give you a sense of control over your body [11,112,114,126-130].

You don’t have to do a lot of exercise to get a benefit. Even simple activities (such as walking several times a week or yoga) can improve quality of life [11-12,114,130].

Physical activity can also reduce fatigue [125,131-136].

The American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommend cancer survivors aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week [4].

Learn about physical activity and breast cancer survival.

Learn about other benefits of physical activity for breast cancer survivors.

Other ways to cope with stress

Other ways to lower stress and anxiety include [114,137]:

  • Expressive writing
  • Music therapy
  • Stress management (in a group program)

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET (6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT). You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org.
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 06/16/21

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