Coping with a diagnosis of local or locoregional recurrence, and working through the existential fears and worries that it may trigger, is anything but easy. Starting cancer treatment again can also take a heavy physical and emotional toll. Nowadays, good-quality treatment will also include the option of psycho-oncological counseling. Psycho-oncologists have special training in psychology, medicine and/or social work and are there to support women with a recurrence and their family and friends in dealing with the illness.
In hospitals, psycho-oncological support is mainly provided by doctors and nurses. They may work together with psycho-oncological services. Psycho-oncological support is also offered as part of rehabilitation. Outpatient psycho-oncological help is available as well.
Various forms of psychotherapy may also be offered to help you if you are experiencing longer-term fears or other negative feelings. You can have therapy or counseling either individually, together with your partner, or in a group with others affected by breast cancer.
You can reduce stress and better get to grips with your fears and the effects of treatment by learning relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training or exercises to channel your thoughts. Relaxation courses are often offered at rehabilitation clinics, but they may also be offered at doctors' or psychotherapists' practices. In Germany, the costs will be covered by statutory health insurers if you have a prescription from your doctor.
Support groups offer women the opportunity to meet others who have first-hand experience with the feelings and practical problems associated with recurrent breast cancer. Women with recurrent breast cancer might already be familiar with that from their first illness: Support groups allow them to talk about things that are usually difficult to bring up with people who haven't had cancer. That can be a great relief. Many women say that they draw strength from the solidarity and helpfulness that they find in support groups. These groups often offer other things as well, such as special sports activities or help with social law issues.
In Germany, you are entitled to a variety of services and financial support, including sickness benefit and help with nursing care, as well as home help and childcare. There are a number of places you can go to for advice and help if you want to apply for support. Experts can assist you with personal decisions as well as with financial and legal matters. Individual advice – either over the telephone or in person – is available from
- the Cancer Information Service (Krebsinformationsdienst – in German),
- various cancer information centers (in German),
- health insurance companies and pension funds, and
- local (psycho)social counseling centers – the social services department or your local health authorities can tell you who to contact.
Hospital support services can also help you to apply for further social or financial help. Rehabilitation information centers can tell you more about medical and job-related rehabilitation and help with filing applications. You can get their addresses from your health insurance or pension fund.