Adjusting to a diagnosis of breast cancer is complex. The initial focus is typically on decision-making and negotiating treatments which may be associated with considerable morbidity. Many women cope by thinking “one day at a time”. Completion of treatment is often anticipated as a time to resume a semblance of normal life, but the reality is often quite different. Many women describe feeling anxious and uncertain about how to adjust especially if others do not appear to understand their life-changing experience. The subsequent development of lymphoedema can lead to additional changes in self-perception and functional ability which in turn exert further pressure on roles and relationships.
This presentation describes the emotional impact of lymphoedema, including discussion of the factors which may influence adjustment. Clinical vignettes will be used to illustrate opportunities for health professionals to promote adjustment.