Being diagnosed with breast cancer (BC) can be devastating and seriously affect a patient’s mental health, and the resulting psychological stress can strongly impact their physical recovery.
This is why a Rowan University scholar is calling for women to consider seeking emotional and mental medical support after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.
“Breast cancer is more than skin deep. It’s not just about your external body image. It’s not just about secondary sexual characteristics. It’s not just about breasts. It’s more than that. The psyche and the physical body are interconnected, so you really can’t address one and not the other,” Georita Frierson, PhD, associate professor of psychology and director of Clinical Training for the Clinical Psychology PhD Program at Rowan University in New Jersey, said in a press release.
Frierson, based on her research, advises breast cancer patients to consider the following as they set out to treat their cancer:
- Severe and acute stress may occur when you receive a breast cancer diagnosis
- The acute distress can lead to a lower quality of life
- Physical activity is important to improve mood and other health outcomes in breast cancer
- Cancer treatments have the potential to affect intimate relationships
- After breast cancer surgeries, patients may have body image distress
- Treatment or recovery can disrupt one’s employment, including the loss of a job
- Patients in distress may see their diets change or experience appetite disturbances
- The taste of certain foods might change with stress
- Disturbances in taste or eating habits, like taste aversions or food restrictions due to chemotherapy, are possible
- Sleep patterns can be affected
Frierson has conducted a comprehensive body of research into breast cancer. The Discovery Foundation funded her pilot study of the psychological and behavioral outcomes in triple negative breast cancer patients during the first year of treatment. Her research, which includes topics like biobehavioral intervention, or behavior strategies and exercise intervention, has received funding from state agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Department of Defense (DoD).
Frierson is a member of the American Psychological Association and Division 38 (Health Psychology), Society of Behavioral Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Her published research addresses the emotional and psychosocial consequences of cancer, as well as physical activity among women treated for breast cancer, and breast cancer among ethnic minorities.
Before joining Rowan last year, Frierson directed similar programs and lectured at Howard and Brown universities.