Write Away Breast Cancer Stress: How Keeping a Journal May Boost Your Health and Happiness

Every week, more than 5,700 American women receive breast cancer diagnoses. While medical care is essential for treating tumors, researchers from the University of Houston have found a self-managed, drug-free method to improve your defense against this disease. This technique is as simple as keeping a journal and writing about your emotions, fears, and experiences throughout a breast cancer diagnosis. The pen can be a mighty weapon against cancer.

In her research, Qian Lu found long-term physical and psychological health benefits for participants in the study who wrote about their deepest fears and the benefits of a breast cancer diagnosis. Her study focused on Asian-American women with breast cancer and their psychological needs, as previous studies primarily examined non-Hispanic white women. The findings showed that many Asian-American women experienced stress from feeling stigmatized and ashamed of having cancer. Cultural attitudes encouraged attempting to carry the burden of cancer in isolation, promoting harmony in their families by repressing emotional distress.

Breast cancer patients, much like war veterans, can experience post-traumatic stress symptoms. When patients receive a breast cancer diagnosis, they often face significant emotional trauma. This may include feelings of loss, depression, anxiety about going into treatment, and concerns about the future. Like everyone else, cancer patients have a range of emotional events occurring in their lives.

The Power of Journaling

To test the effectiveness of journaling, the women in the study spent 20 minutes per week writing in their journal. They followed instructions to describe their specific emotions and feelings about their cancer diagnosis. Lu’s findings suggest participants perceived the writing task to be straightforward, revealing their emotions and disclosing experiences they had not previously shared with others. Participants reported that they wrote down their thoughts and feelings and perceived the intervention to be appropriate and valuable.

For these women, the benefits of expressive writing included increased personal energy, a reduction in intrusive thoughts, and less post-traumatic stress after three months. Additionally, their quality of life significantly improved.

Expressing Emotions for Improved Health

This study highlights the importance of providing an outlet for the emotions and stress that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. Often, merely opening up and being vulnerable can provide immense relief and support; expressive writing allows for raw, uncensored thoughts and feelings to be released. The process can help patients make sense of their emotions and address any areas of fear or concern. This can help develop resilience, reduce stress, and significantly improve both mental and emotional well-being.

Other techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, can also help with managing stress and lowering anxiety levels. These practices provide a quiet moment for reflection, focus, and clarity, enabling a more profound understanding of oneself and how to approach the challenges and obstacles posed by breast cancer.

Support groups, either in-person or online, can also provide a safe space for sharing emotions and connecting with others facing similar experiences. Opening up to others who understand what you’re going through can offer valuable emotional support and resources. Many find solidarity and solace in interacting with individuals who share the same fears, uncertainty, and challenges, and this connection can lead to stronger emotional resilience in the face of adversity.


Facing a breast cancer diagnosis is a challenging, emotional, and often isolating experience, but techniques such as journaling, mindfulness, and support groups can help improve mental and emotional well-being. Embracing these strategies can lead to reduced stress, increased energy, and a significant improvement in overall life quality. When it comes to battling cancer, the pen holds incredible power, and wielding it just might hold the key to unlocking healing and resilience in this difficult journey.