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Q. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer on my right breast and abnormal cells in the left breast. How do I cope with the anxiety of the anticipation? And the cancer too? I don't know what to expect?


Hearing that you have cancer is very scary, and it is natural to have anxiety, specifically anticipatory anxiety. Anticipatory anxiety is increased anxiety to a scary situation you are about to confront, i.e. your diagnosis and treatment.

There are several ways to cope with anxiety, such as keeping a journal about your anxiety. When journaling here are some things you might consider are: what was the situation in which anxiety occurred?, if you are having negative thoughts, ask yourself what was your initial negative thought?, note how your body feels and where in your body you feel the anxiety, then ask yourself “What is the evidence for this negative thought? Am I looking at both sides of the issue?” Then counter those negative thoughts with three alternative positive, self-supportive statements. In addition, there are other ways to manage anxiety, for example, controlled breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques can be used anywhere and anytime. Also, if you are having negative thought patterns and feel that you are becoming overwhelmed, it may be helpful to have someone to talk to about your fears, someone who can be objective, someone that you can trust. You may want to join a support group, engage in individual counseling or both. CancerCare offers short-term counseling, and support groups in various modalities.

In regards to learning what to expect, you may want to keep an open line of communication with medical team about treatment, side effects and ways to manage side effects. Please read our fact sheet on questions to ask your medical team.

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