Research shows breast cancer can bring benefits

Breast cancer gave me permission to live my life on my own terms and I continue to “seize the day”. – Jill

Research into the psychological impact of breast cancer largely focuses on the trauma of a diagnosis and the physical and emotional effects women may experience. Outcomes from this research are used to help determine what treatments or interventions may be helpful.

While the cancer experience is stressful, there is growing awareness that some women feel that positive changes have come about as a result of their breast cancer experience. This has resulted in research looking at how women are offsetting their breast cancer by making sense of it and finding benefits.

“Benefit finding” is the term used to describe the positive changes that result from trauma such as breast cancer. Some women have found that their diagnosis has given them a greater sense of purpose, positive changes in relationships, a greater appreciation of life and changes in their priorities.

Benefits can be experienced as personal growth, freedom to be yourself, positive change or a reminder of the good things that exist in your life.

Of course, some women struggle to find benefits. It is difficult to know what characteristics can lead you to find benefit from your breast cancer experience. Particular benefits depend on your life circumstances as well as your personal characteristics.

While you may not find any benefits or positives to your cancer experience now, research has shown that this can change at different times following a diagnosis. This is especially important for those supporting you to know, as the pressure on you to “stay positive” can create more stress.

The remarkable stories in this edition of The Beacon show that women are feeling what the research is showing. A breast cancer diagnosis can result in reassessing what is important to you and even beneficial changes to your life.

Research project to improve wellness

In the Autumn edition of The Beacon we told you about the Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program, which is using internet and smart phone technology to deliver a specially designed healthy lifestyle program to women who have had breast, blood or gynaecological cancer.

The researchers were delighted with the response to our article, with more than 130 women registering their interest in the program.

Places are still available to participate in this 12-week healthy lifestyle program.

You may be eligible if you meet the following criteria:

  • Australian resident
  • aged 18 years or older
  • treated for breast, blood and/or gynaecological cancer
  • completed or almost completed chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy in the last 24 months
  • able to speak and read English to Grade 10 level
  • no secondary/metastatic disease
  • computer literate
  • own, or have access to, an iPad or Apple computer for the duration of the study (12 weeks).

For more information, or to register, visit the project website at www.wwacp.info or email wwacp@nullqut.edu.au.

Issue 72
Spring 2015