Living with secondary breast cancer

Each person’s experience of secondary breast cancer is unique and everyone will cope with their diagnosis and the impact it has on their life in their own way. 

Even if you want to carry on as before, your diagnosis will have some impact on the people around you, the things you do and how you see the future. 

Living with uncertainty

For many people, the uncertainty of living with secondary breast cancer can be the hardest part. Some people find living in the present and making plans from day to day easier than looking too far ahead. Others find that planning for the future helps them feel more in control.

Marie, Diane and Tara talk about coping with the uncertainty of secondary breast cancer.


When you’re first diagnosed you may find it difficult to feel positive. But once you start to adjust to this new situation and find ways to cope, you may be able to feel more optimistic, although there will almost certainly be days when you don’t feel this way.

Even though it may be hard, try to think about your future. It may not be the future you would have wished for yourself, but you can still think about what your goals are and how you would like to plan the coming months or years.

Find out more about making changes in your life.

Psychological effects

Feelings of sadness and loss are common with a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. Suddenly you’re facing an uncertain future and your life plans and goals have changed.

People react in different ways – some experience low mood from time to time while others feel hopeless. You may feel extremely tired and not want to do very much at all. This is a normal reaction to a stressful situation, but it can help to try to plan to do something you enjoy every day. Simple things like a short walk with a friend or loved one can make a difference.

You may find that people around you encourage you to be positive and to ‘fight’ the cancer. For some people, adopting a ‘fighting spirit’ enables them to cope with their diagnosis. But it’s hard to be positive all the time and pressure from other people can sometimes make you feel inadequate and guilty.

You’ll develop your own ways of coping. However, if you need help you can talk to your specialist team or there may be strategies you can learn with support from a counsellor or psychotherapist who specialises in working with people affected by cancer.

Find out more about anxiety and depression with secondary breast cancer.

Secondary breast cancer and support groups

Marie and Diane share their experiences of support groups and talking to other people with secondary breast cancer.

Last reviewed: December 2015
Next planned review begins 2017

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Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

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