Could You Have PTSD Post Breast Cancer?

After beating breast cancer, Lauren Rockwell still couldn’t let her guard down. The reason—post-traumatic stress disorder. Here, how she overcame the lingering fear and anxiety and reclaimed her life.

Cheryl Solimini
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Lauren eventually discussed her PTSD symptoms with her own therapist and started a blog to help her come to terms with her trauma. She also does cognitive behavioral therapy—which teaches patients to tune in to their feelings and work through emotions in real time—to help her deal with the condition.

“It took a lot of time to start to heal mentally, but knowing that it’s a real condition, and that it’s normal to experience, helps,” she says. “Each day gets better and better!”

Could you have cancer-related PTSD?

Talk to your cancer care team if one or more of these PTSD symptoms lasts a month or more. 

  • Panic attacks (both isolated and chronic), which include a racing heartbeat, trembling or shortness of breath
  • Avoidance of follow-up checkups and other appointments, or anything you associate with your cancer or treatment
  • Feeling hyper-alert, almost like you’re on watch for something
  • Worry that any change in your body means your cancer has returned
  • Feeling jumpy or easily startled
  • Unexplainable irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Frequent nightmares or flashbacks
May 2013