What makes you feel better: knowing or not knowing?
| Credit: (123RF)

What makes you feel better: knowing or not knowing?(123RF)Information is a great soother for some women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Violet Bergere, 80, who lives in California's San Fernando Valley, reached for the Web to find numbers, expert opinions, and medical facts she could contemplate. "I wanted to know how bad it was," she says, "so I had to see all the lab work and learn the gory details; then I went to the Internet to find out the most up-to-date treatment."

Says Robin Hershkowitz, program director for women's cancers at CancerCare, a national nonprofit support services group based in New York City, "You have to recognize that there's a piece of grief and loss in every single aspect of this. But the majority of women want to be educated—what is breast cancer, their particular type of cancer, their treatment options, and who can they ask? That's your oncologist. Knowledge can be empowering."

More about coping

Of course, not everyone wants an honorary MD in breast cancer.

"I just wanted to know what to do next," says Kerry Apicella, 62, of New York City. "I wasn't going to investigate this too much. I read a little bit, but I decided I didn't want to be immersed in all of it; it was too confusing."

That was also the case for Karen Tommer, 34, who lives in Newton, Kan. "Part of my strategy to stay sane was to learn about my cancer, but not so much that I would live in fear every day. So I chose to be naive to a degree, and still do."

Hershkowitz advises, "If you find that information is making you anxious, take that as a sign and talk to your doctor about it. Ask yourself, does it bring you comfort?"