Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Talking about Breast Cancer

As a Board Certified Cosmetic Surgeon in Fort Myers & Cape Coral, Florida, I am a subscriber to news from the ASAPS. From time to time they send helpful articles, one of which is reprinted (by permission) below.

Talking About Breast Cancer
Fighting cancer is a battle within itself. The shock of the diagnosis, treatment and the knowledge that it threatens your life, possibly affecting later generations can be overwhelming. A major step in starting the treatment and healing process is to get the support of your family and friends. Sharing the diagnosis with them can be traumatic for both those giving and receiving the hard news.

The American Cancer Society has some recommendations for  talking about cancer:
- If you are diagnosed, it’s important for you to discuss in detail with the doctor about the treatment, prognosis and what to expect in the months to come. Knowing all the details and course of treatment will be important so that you can become emotionally ready to share the news.
- It might be difficult to talk about cancer over and over again. So, you might feel the need to tell groups of people - via email, cards or people you designate to spread the news. Whatever way you choose to tell another or how much you are willing to share is personal. Those receiving the news  should be respectful of that personal nature.
- Having a support group of close family and friends is important and healthy during this time. You may want to reach out to a community group of other cancer survivors 
during this time, to share experiences.
- A common misconception is that the cancer patient or supporting friends and family should act happy and put up a false front. It’s more important to stay positive, but completely normal to have bad days.

An even harder task with an illness like breast cancer is talking to young children about the diagnosis. A recent Huffington Post article recommends being honest about cancer to let children know that they’re part of the family, that telling the truth is important and to quell any fears they might have. Here are some tips on talking to children about breast cancer:

- Let them know you are sick and you have breast cancer. Children are perceptive. It's important to tell them the real name to avoid mixed messages and confusion.
- Tell them in simple and straightforward terms about what to expect. For example: I will be going to the hospital for four nights to be taken care of by doctors and nurses. Then, I’m going to come home and rest here with you and Daddy.
- Encourage children to ask questions. Be sure to explain that cancer is not contagious, that no one caused the cancer (in case they think it’s linked to their bad behavior) and that someone will be there for them when you are undergoing treatment.


For family members and friends, the best thing to do is be available, supportive and act normally. Following a routine, enjoying hobbies and activities will help bring normalcy and a welcome distraction from possible treatments and surgery.

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