What support is available for breast cancer patients?

A young Black woman sitting on a couch and talking with a therapist who specializes in breast cancer.


You will be supported during breast cancer treatment by caring and knowledgeable nurse navigators, social workers and therapists.


Everyone handles breast cancer in their own way. What everyone has in common are the many appointments it takes to treat breast cancer, which can affect your emotional and physical health as well as your daily activities, family life and work life.


Nurse navigators, social workers and therapists are integral members of your breast cancer care team, along with surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. At Nuvance Health, these specialists meet regularly to review everyone’s case to provide the best possible, well-rounded care. Nurse navigators, social workers and therapists provide insights about emotional, socioeconomic and psychological factors that may influence your experience and outcome.


Find out how support services like nurse navigators, social workers and therapists can help you.



What is the role of nurse navigators for breast cancer patients?


Nurse navigators support you during active treatment and beyond. At Nuvance Health, you have direct access to your nurse navigator. They are your main contact for questions about your treatment plan. They also coordinate your appointments with imaging, breast surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and more.


Nurse navigators also connect you with other services, including oncology nutritionists and lymphedema specialists.



What is the role of social workers for breast cancer patients?


Social workers provide emotional support, help answer questions and connect you with other supportive services. Social workers work with nurse navigators and the full team to help solve problems and facilitate care so patients can focus on their treatments.


“Our goal is to meet patients when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer. Most people have many thoughts going through their heads when they first hear the ‘C’ word because the diagnosis affects them emotionally, physically, socially and impacts their family and work life,” said Amanda Miller, licensed master social worker, breast surgery, Vassar Brothers Medical Center, part of Nuvance Health. “My first question is usually, ‘How are you doing?’ to allow them a safe space to unpack their feelings.”


“We aim to help patients process their thoughts and identify individuals in their support system who may be most helpful to them throughout their treatment,” Amanda said.


Social workers help you develop coping skills and tips for navigating your treatment plan. These may include calendar checklists to track treatment progress or journaling techniques. They also connect you with resources for family support services, financial services, home care and support groups, and help brainstorm solutions for childcare or transportation needs.



What is the role of therapists for breast cancer patients?


Therapists provide counseling and support to help you manage and adjust to everything that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. This includes processing and coping with the initial diagnosis and managing practical challenges, such as balancing medical appointments with family and work responsibilities.


“Many people experience acute anxiety and stress when they first hear they have breast cancer. They commonly report disbelief, shock and being stopped in their tracks,” said Michelle Dailey, licensed family therapist for oncology, Norwalk Hospital, part of Nuvance Health.


Therapists provide coping strategies such as mindfulness techniques to help you stay grounded in the present and manage anxiety, fears and uncertainty. They help you tap into your inner resources, resilience and strengths. They also help validate your experience and normalize your emotional responses to cancer-related distress.


Therapists offer guidance on how to communicate your diagnosis to family, friends and co-workers, which can be particularly helpful for those with young children. At Nuvance Health, therapists are also available to provide support to the patient’s family.


“Therapists continue to provide reassurance and interventions after active treatment ends for those who need it,” said Michelle. “It is common for people to feel a wave of anxiety after completing treatment as they resume their lives, and to worry about the cancer coming back. Therapists help patients integrate back into family and work life especially if they had to take time away during treatment.”



The bottom line: If you have breast cancer, you are not alone! Nuvance Health nurse navigators, social workers and therapists will provide reassurance and information. Nurse navigators will schedule your appointments and be available for any questions about your care plan. Social workers and therapists help with coping skills and arranging supportive services. They are here to help you no matter where you are in your breast cancer journey.