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Information and Resources Hub / Articles /
Getting through the first few weeks

Getting through the first few weeks

Updated: 06 Sep 2023
A large group of women are sitting in three rows, wearing BCNA t-shirts and smiling at the camera.

Topics in this article
Emotional wellbeing and mental health
Treatment and Therapies
Connect with others

Connect with others

Need assistance
Call our helpline
1800 500 258
or send us an enquiry
Call our helpline

1800 500 258

or send us an enquiry

Getting your diagnosis of breast cancer can take a little while as there are a number of scans and tests needed. This is a time of uncertainty and anxious waiting.

No matter how you’re feeling, try not to overwhelm yourself. Try to remember that most people survive breast cancer and that you are not alone. Knowing this can be very reassuring as you go through the next few weeks and months.

If you feel like breast cancer is dominating your every thought, there are some strategies that can help. Many of the strategies included on this page have been suggested by people diagnosed with breast cancer who found them helpful during their own experience.

Managing emotions 

A diagnosis of breast cancer is different for everyone, no two people’s circumstances are the same.  For others, making changes and planning ahead provides a sense of control.

There’s no rule for how to handle emotions, you have to do what’s right for you and that may change over time. 

Below are things that others have told us they found helpful. 

  • Be kind to yourself. There can be a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, especially while you are waiting for test results to come back.  
  • Take time to process what you can. 
  • Think about what you want. There may be pressure from people close to you to follow a particular course of action, but it is important you think about what it is you want to do. Take one step at a time.  
  • It generally helps to be well informed. Talk to your medical team and ask lots of questions so you fully understand your situation and the treatment plan they are proposing for you. Ask for a second opinion if you think it would be helpful. 
  • Talking about your emotions can help you process how you’re feeling. Sometimes talking to friends or family members can help, other times someone outside your close circle such as your GP, social worker or a counsellor will be most helpful.  Professional help can also help you with strategies for talking to family members, including children, and work colleagues and friends. 
  • Put yourself first. If it helps, allow family members to screen your phone calls. Choose who you want to see and when. You may wish to start a blog or group email to keep your family and friends up-to-date so you don't have to tell everyone individually.  
  • A good night’s sleep helps you to cope better both physically and emotionally. In the first few days or weeks after diagnosis your brain may be so busy you find it hard to sleep. Lack of sleep can make it difficult to think clearly and make good decisions. 
  • Ask to see a breast care nurse. Breast care nurses are registered nurses specially trained to provide information and support to people with breast cancer. They can help you find your way through the health system and can be a regular point of contact for information and support. 
  • Allow others to help and support you and your family. Don't be afraid to ask for help or to accept help when it's offered. 
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good. 
  • Take time out. Try to do things you enjoy and say no to activities you don’t feel up to doing. Give yourself a 'cancer-free' day.   
  • Exercise when you can. Regular exercise has been found to have enormous benefits in health and wellbeing. It can also help to make you feel less anxious, stressed or depressed. 
  • Try relaxation or meditation to help keep your emotions in balance. 
  • If you want to talk to someone who has experienced breast cancer, visit BCNA’s online network to connect with others in a similar experience.  

Call BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 for information, support, resources and for a referral to the services you need.

Shared experiences

Find out what other Australians have had to say about their experiences of connecting with others and the effects that breast cancer can have on family and friends.

In the videos below, people who have experienced breast cancer share their insights into what helped them feel supported. 

Support following a diagnosis of breast cancer
Breast cancer and your family
Communicating with family and friends

Reliable information 

If you have been newly diagnosed, you may wish to look online for information to help support you during this time. While there is good quality, reliable information on the internet, there is also information that may be unhelpful, inaccurate and scary.  

BCNA’s fact sheet, Getting the most from the web: A guide to breast cancer information on the internet is designed to help you find good quality information on the internet. It contains a list of reliable Australian and international websites.  

Please remember that not all the information you read will be relevant to you and your specific diagnosis. If you have any questions about your diagnosis or about the information you read, please talk to a member of your treating team.  

Things you can do now

  • If you are thinking of starting a family or having more children in the future, read the fertility section of Breast cancer in young women. 
  • If you are working, our articles on Work and breast cancer may help you to evaluate your work and financial situation.   
  • Visit My Journey, BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis.  
  • Join our Online Network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.  
  • Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and supports that may be available for you and your family.  
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