Possible Emotional Stages of Breast Cancer Patients

When people are faced with a traumatic situation, they often experience various intense emotions. It is natural and common but not everyone goes through these at the same pace or same time.


  1. Denial

    “It’s not true! There must be something wrong with the report. I want to see another doctor.” You may feel that until more than one, two or three doctors confirm the same result, there is a chance the diagnosis may not be true.  You have hope there has been a mistake.

  2. Anger

    You feel angry with yourself and possibly someone else who you may think or feel is responsible for you getting breast cancer.

    Feelings of misery and guilt are understandable but remember: it’s not your fault.

  3. Fear

    You wake up in the middle of the night crying, feeling the fear in the pit of your stomach. You’re terrified, paralyzed, and convinced you are going to die.

  4. Depression

    You feel numb and hopeless. You don’t feel like talking, you’ve lost your appetite and appear to be losing weight. You wake up startled in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Nothing and nobody seems to be able to help or lift your spirits.

    It’s common for women with breast cancer to feel depressed. If you find yourself feeling trapped please seek counselling to help you cope with the stress and depression.

  5. Information addiction

    You may spend entire days and nights looking up and reading information about breast cancer from books and websites. You feel more calm and rational and believe information can help you better understand the disease and correct your misconceptions. You research to the point where you are saturated with information and can't possibly retain any more data in your mind.

  6. Fear of hair loss

    Once your treatment starts, you become obsessed by the potential for hair loss. You may constantly check your pillow and clothes for hair that has fallen out and keep checking in the mirror for signs of baldness.

  7. Looks like everything is going to be fine

    When you are more familiar with the disease and your treatment routine and side effects, you are more at ease.  You change your eating habits and adjust your lifestyle. You are done with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and your hair starts growing back.  This is the biggest, most exciting thing to happen in a long time.

  8. You've survived!
    Finally you have completed all treatment. Your family and friends assume you're fine and suddenly you are on your own.  You may develop a sense of loneliness. Don't panic! We all feel the same way.

  9. You’re a survivor, what does your new life look like? 

    After a year of battle, you feel better and celebrate your one-year anniversary. After your experiences you start to think about the life you want to live. Is it the same as the life you had before breast cancer? Is it different? You may think about returning to work or quitting your job. Perhaps you consider joining a volunteer group or embarking on a travel adventure.

  10. Quiet, constant fear

    The fear never really goes away. You still think about your breast cancer battle sometimes, but not as much as before and less as time goes by.  And then you read a report about breast cancer in the newspaper, or someone you know is diagnosed. The fear rears its ugly head again. Although you’ll never forget you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and experienced a tough treatment journey, those memories can help remind you to take good care of yourself and to live a healthy life doing things that make you happier.

You are not alone. Don’t feel that you have to fight unpleasant thoughts or face your fears by yourself. Talking to your partner, family, friends, support group and doctor, may help you find effective ways to release tension and anxiety.  Your breast cancer journey is most likely best understood by others that have travelled the same road. Peer support and encouragement can be a great source of inspiration and strength.


The Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation is always here to listen, help and accompany you on your breast cancer journey.