Receiving a diagnosis


Nothing can prepare anyone for the statement “I’m sorry, but you’ve got breast cancer.”

The feelings of shock, numbness and fear are all common responses to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Sharing feelings, even painful feelings with others can help women cope with their diagnosis. Whatever the reaction, every woman deserves hope, because today most women can survive breast cancer if it’s caught early enough. Around 2800 New Zealand women are diagnosed every year and 85% of them go on to survive five years or longer. Today, if detected and treated early enough, breast cancer is largely survivable.

While dealing with an immediate diagnosis of breast cancer, women sometimes need additional support. Looking after yourself is the number one priority. Do what feels right for you, put yourself first for once. Sleep if you are tired and cry if you need too. If you find that after a few weeks you are still not coping, talk to your doctor. Do not hide from people if you need a hand.

There are many different sources of care:

• the treatment team can provide support and advice
• sharing feelings with your partner or another family member or friend can be helpful
• some women find it helpful to talk to other women who have experienced breast cancer
• some women seek help from a specialist or ask for additional therapy.

If you need help, check out our support section or call our specialist breast care nurse on 0800BCNurse (0800 2268 773).

Hear how other New Zealand women coped with their diagnosis and what got them through. Ask for help, trust your doctors, and if you don’t feel confident or feel uncomfortable with them, get a second opinion. 

A significant step after your breast cancer diagnosis is communicating the news to others. Who and what you want to tell – and when - are up to you. How to tell young children and deal with their questions can be difficult. Here are some suggestions on advising others about your condition.

Some people need to look outside of their usual life patterns to find something new to help them relax following a breast cancer diagnosis. It's normal to feel anxious or that you're not going to be able to cope as there's so much to get your head around.  Here's some coping suggestions on dealing with your 'rollercoaster' feelings over this time.

For some, yoga is a wonderful technique that stretches the body and muscles, gives flexibility and helps the mind and body to relax. Yoga can help the recovery process while helping the participant to learn a new way of exercising the whole body. Meditation for some is the way. Maybe you are a comedy person who needs a good laugh in order to relax.

You will go through different stages before, during and after treatment. Allow yourself to accept each stage but if you find that you are unable to cope or feel you cannot ‘get out of it’, talk to someone, ask for help.

Remember to ask questions, seek information, and talk to people. Take a friend or whanau member with you to any immediate follow up appointments as they may help in processing the information.