Breast Cancer Survivors: Challenges and Growth

breast cancer survivors
Meta-review highlights challenges and resilience of Breast Cancer Survivors.

Breast cancer survivors deal with a wide range of issues, such as persistent symptoms, future anxiety, identity changes, and even social isolation. However, the study also finds that the experience promoted personal growth, highlighting the more important role social support and honest communication with healthcare practitioners play in helping patients through this process.

To proactively address psychosocial problems such as the continued impact, uncertainty, identity, isolation, posttraumatic growth, return to work, quality of care, and supportive coping techniques, patients who have survived breast cancer should be ready for them.

Twenty-five previously published papers in English from 1998 to 2020 were included in a meta-review and further examined. Of the twenty-five investigations, eight utilized mixed methodologies and seventeen were qualitative.

Among breast cancer survivors, observations showed a high burden of persistent symptoms such as pain, exhaustion, and cognitive problems. It was thought to be healthful, but there was a persistent physical and mental effect that made people uncomfortable. According to studies, survivors prioritize their social relationships over their illness and modify their daily routines to account for these constraints.

There were obstacles associated with the shift from patient to survivor, including uncertainty regarding future health and lifespan. Reduced patient interaction and medical assistance increased anxiety, which in turn fueled a fear of recurrence and a hypervigilance toward any possible sign. A diverse set of people experienced an existential crisis: although some embraced a renewed desire to live life to the fullest, others struggled with mortality, especially mothers who were making plans for the futures of their children.

Beyond physical obstacles, survivors of breast cancer endure a complex identity dilemma. Changes in one’s body image can lead to thoughts of deformity and a loss of femininity, yet for others, scars are symbols of bravery. Sexual desire, early menopause, and physical discomfort are issues that hinder intimacy. Fertility becomes a complicated matter; some want to restore normalcy through pregnancy, while others are concerned about genetic risks, potential health issues for their offspring, and fear of recurrence.

Many breast cancer survivors may feel misinterpreted by loved ones as they deal with the disease’s long-term repercussions. Isolation as a coping strategy may result from this. Sadly, isolating oneself might result in a loss of support—exactly what they might require most during this trying time.

Research also emphasized the idea of posttraumatic growth among individuals who have survived breast cancer. This development frequently showed itself as an increased respect for life, inspiring survivors to make the most of their time on earth. As cancer survivors interact and support greater awareness alongside those who are coping with the disease, the experience of cancer also fosters a feeling of meaning and purpose.

For survivors, going back to work was a difficult decision. Some saw circumstances that were unsupportive or worried about cognitive impairment, while others saw it as a return to normalcy and support. Pressures related to money also had an impact. Variations in survivor experiences highlighted how important it is to build open lines of communication and trust with medical professionals.

Beyond clinical competence, this attention goes beyond obstacles to access and persistent information gaps, such as geographic restrictions, logistical issues like transportation, and linguistic difficulties.

Survivors of breast cancer have often stated that they require different coping mechanisms and assistance. Through social support networks, survivors were encouraged to manage the emotional burden of their diagnosis, tell their stories, get involved in their community, and remain active. A common coping strategy that provided comfort and acceptance in the face of uncertainty was spirituality. To deal with the long-term impacts, survivors also took a variety of coping mechanisms; some showed resilience, while others used avoidance or denial.

The study’s inability to fully capture the range of survivor experiences was hampered by its exclusive dependence on English-language evaluations. Systematic reviews are inevitably constrained by the reviewers’ interpretations and quotation selections, which may cause them to miss subtleties in the original literature. The possibility of duplicate results and the omission of unpublished data can cast doubt on how thorough the results are.

Studies show that although breast cancer survivors have many difficulties, such as physical restrictions, existential fears, and identity changes, they are also remarkably resilient and capable of posttraumatic growth. Survivors can traverse this difficult road and regain a feeling of well-being by exploring appropriate coping techniques, prioritizing social support, and encouraging open communication with healthcare providers.

For more information: Psychosocial experiences of breast cancer survivors: a meta-review, Journal of Cancer Survivorship, https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs11764-023-01336-x