Pioneering Psychotherapist Shares 3 Exercises for Maintaining Emotionally While Coping with a Diagnosis
By Niki Barr, Ph.D.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been one of the most successful campaigns to raise public awareness in recent history. Unfortunately, in terms of successfully reducing breast-cancer mortality, the results have been mixed, which has caused fierce debate among doctors, researchers, non-profit groups and patients.
“Embedded in the message driving the campaign every October includes instruction to women to strongly consider getting screened for breast cancer, which is often asymptomatic during the early stages, in the hopes of finding cancer before it metastasizes,” says cancer psychotherapist Dr. Niki Barr, author of “Emotional Wellness, The Other Half of Treating Cancer,” (canceremotionalwellbeing.com).
Debate over the efficacy of screenings has arisen as new studies reveal possible shortfalls: self-examinations haven’t been proven effective; younger women experience false positives due to denser breast tissue, as well as missed positives, despite clinical examinations; and recently published studies such as The New England Journal of Medicine’s findings on three decades of screening have been mixed, Dr. Barr says. The latter found that screenings did reduce late-stage cancer rates, to a small extent, but mammograms also drastically increased over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment, including surgeries, toxic drugs and an incalculable amount of stress and suffering, she says. “I think each woman needs to consider screenings on an individual basis. Family history, age and other risk factors should be considered in their decision,” Dr. Barr says. “It’s equally important to remember that, should you or a loved one be diagnosed with breast cancer, you should care for your emotional well-being as much as you take measures to restore physical well-being.”