Long-term emotional effect of cancer?

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Question from JD: I am a 15-year survivor (five years post-chemo following recurrence), but I still get teary-eyed talking about my experiences. Do you think it's due to stress or incomplete healing of the psychological effects of my experience?
Answers - Mitch Golant First I want to thank you for asking that question. What is painful about that question is that there is a long-term effect of cancer on many of our lives, and while we want to think that the cancer is done and gone, it can affect us. What you also brought up that is very important is really two points. One is that in the dealing with cancer, there is the long-term, late effects. There are physical late effects that begin...some women talk about chemo-brain - their memory isn't the same. But also there are emotional effects of the diagnosis of cancer. Sometimes prior history also triggers this emotion, especially if the treatment itself for cancer has been particularly difficult. One measure of that kind of stress (and we are seeing it as a result of the terrorist bombing) is called intrusive thought. Intrusive thoughts are nightmares - flashbacks that are triggered when someone mentions cancer; it takes us right back. Another avoidance for people with cancer is that they don't want to drive by the hospital anymore. What you are describing is important because it is not just the physical treatment of cancer, but the emotional side of it.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Breast cancer awareness month (October) can be particularly hard if there are constant reminders of breast cancer on the radio, TV, magazines, sitcoms, yogurt tops, and cereal boxes. And sometimes, a prior experience may take on new meaning for you in the future. What may not have been so important in the past may become bigger as you move along. Genetic testing is such a possibility, or when a neighbor or another person close to you may become affected, it makes you feel more vulnerable.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Stress and Your Immune System featured Mitch Golant, Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions on how stress affects your treatment, and what you can do to boost your immune system.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2001.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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