Problem Solving Techniques for Breast Cancer Patients

As a patient or caregiver for someone who is fighting breast cancer, you will likely face many problems throughout the entire process. It is important to have a plan or at least an understanding of the best way to handle these problems.

Examples of potential problems include:

  • Communication problems – with doctors, healthcare providers, family and friends
  • Feelings of Depression
  • Fear or breast cancer recurrence
  • Financial struggles
  • Dissatisfaction with sexual or intimate relationships
  • Difficulty tolerating treatment
  • Lack of desire to participate in social events

Some problems are more significant than others and will affect the patient’s life differently. No matter how big or small the problem is, using the same steps for each can help you solve problems consistently. The following is a four-step process that may help you begin to understand how to solve whatever problems you are facing.

  1. Identify the root of the problem.

Sometimes, what seems like a problem may actually be the result of deeper problem. For example, you and your spouse may seem to be fighting all of the time. You may believe the problem to be your spouse. However, the root of the problem may be spouse’s fear of losing you to breast cancer, or your fear of dying from breast cancer. Having never dealt with this problem before, both of you may not know how to handle the emotions you feel and end up taking it out on each other.

  1. Educate yourself concerning the problem.

If the problem has something to do with the cancer and you need more information about cancer itself, perform some research and educate yourself. If the problem is an emotional or spiritual problem, communicate with your spouse or religious leader about it for guidance. Gather as much information as you need in order to make a decision.

  1. Come up with at least two potential solutions.

After you have determined the problem and educated yourself about the problem, begin to come up with at least two or more solutions to the problem. Write them down as well as the pros and cons for each. At that point, everything will be on paper right in front of you and you should be able to make an informed decision.

  1. Make your decisions and stick with it.

Once you have made your decision, act on it and do not second guess yourself. There is a reason that you made the decision you have and second guessing it will only lead to guilt and regret.

It is very important to remember that even though you can be extremely careful with each decision you make, you are a human being and at some point you will make a mistake. This is an inevitable truth but hopefully by using a structured problem-solving technique, you will make as few as possible.


1 Given, Barbara A; Charles W Given; and Sharon Kozachik. (July/August 2001) Family Support in Advanced Cancer. Cancer Journal for Clinicians. V 51:4, 213-231.

2 Osse, Bart H P; Myrra J F J Vernooij-Dassen; Egbert Schade; and Richard P T M Grol. (February 2005) The problems experienced by patients with cancer and their needs for palliative care. V 13:9, 722-732.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.