Cancer is an overwhelming disease, from the day it is diagnosed till the time the treatment ends, it puts the patient on an emotional, psychological and physical roller coaster ride. And once the treatment is over, expecting life would be back to normal immediately won’t happen. The patient, the patient’s body, and the patient’s family, all have undergone a lot and there are no magic potions which can put it all back to where it started, before the cancer diagnosis. As most oncologists say about life after breast cancer treatment, many of the survivors may face a new set of problems and concerns related to fertility, sexuality, menopause or other late effects of treatment. The constant worry of the cancer coming back also makes the patient queasy. So, it may help to know what to expect in life after breast cancer treatment and how to overcome those issues.
Emotional Effect of the Treatment
Last day of life treatment for most of the breast cancer patients is the most emotional day. Life after breast cancer treatment entails in people, a mix of emotions, fear, lonely, relieved, joyful. Not everyone feels the same. Until now, there were doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals guiding them throughout their journey. But after the treatment ends they often wonder whether they still have the caring and support from the ones around them.
But they should know all who guided them along the way are still available to support them. Healthcare team often suggests survivors see other trained professionals who are trained in helping cancer survivors adjust to their life after treatment.
Life After Breast Cancer Treatment: What You Can Expect in the Coming Year
Changes to your body after treatment
In breast cancer treatment, most women undergo surgery as part of the treatment which may cause the breast area to be swollen or bruised which may be upsetting. Some women may feel incomplete, low in self-esteem and sometimes unfeminine. But one should never feel disheartened as they have survived the most fatal disease known, cancer and this scars will improve over time. The sooner you accept the physical changes, the easier you may regain your confidence in your physical appearance.
Life after breast cancer treatment involves women experiencing menopausal symptoms. These are the most common side effect and consequences of breast cancer treatment as either the production of female hormones are stopped completely or their effectiveness is haltered. Treatments like chemotherapy or hormone therapy or ovarian ablation in which ovaries stopped working, can cause menopausal symptoms both during and after treatment.
These may include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flushes
- A decrease in intimate desire
- Vaginal dryness, irritation and pain
- Stress, anxiety and mood swings
- Bladder problems
One or two months after treatment such as chemotherapy stops, your hair will again start to grow back and this time the texture will be curlier. Your original texture will return to its original state over many months.
Putting on a weight is the most common side effect of treatment as some drugs may increase the appetite when you are less active during the treatment. Regular exercise can help with the weight loss and with the healthy diet, you may be able to manage stress.
Due to radiation therapy, there are chances of the breast size to shrink and breast may lose the firmness over time.
Make a better life after treatment
With a positive mind set and the willingness to beat cancer at every step, one can make this happen. This comes supported with a proper diagnosis and well-laid life after breast cancer treatment plan. Going back to the “new normal” is possible with a streamlined plan post therapy.
Don’t Hurry Up
Fatigue and physical weariness will take time to wean, so don’t hurry up getting back into all the household chores, or end up socializing. Take things one at a time and slow down. The body will take time to rejuvenate.
Accept the changes and move on
Accept that the cancer was there but now it’s past. The patient should not shy away from people, rather should form a support group of people who have had similar surgeries in the past. He should engage in healthy conversations. The patient needs to follow a routine keeping the current status in mind. Gelling up from the past routine helps create a new normal life.
Follow Up Tests
It is recommended for women who underwent breast cancer treatment to visit their doctor every three to six months for the first three years, then every six to 12 months during years four and five and every year thereafter. The cancer specialist would advise a series of follow-up tests to monitor the effects of the ongoing treatment, monitor for signs of lymphedema, address any challenges the patient is facing with current medications, and check for any chances of spread and/or remission. Tests usually undertaken include mammograms, bone health tests and physical exams. Take them as part of the patient’s routine and let them not bog the patient down. These are essential to keep a trail of the patient’s progress.
- Post-treatment mammography: With respect to life after breast cancer treatment, it is advisable to schedule a mammogram one year after the first mammogram that led to your diagnosis, but not until six months after radiation therapy. After that, a mammogram should be done every 12 months to detect the recurrence of any one or both the breasts.
Get to know Breast Cancer Surgery Cost here.
Looking After all of Your Health Care Needs
Until now, you were so engrossed into your treatment, recovery and life after breast cancer treatment that you must have side-lined the requirement of going to the dentist or any other general doctor. While the treatment was going, other aspects of your health are usually ignored. So, now is a good time to book any overdue health care appointments. You may also want to make some changes to your diet and exercise habits that can help you work towards a healthy future.
Ask the right questions
Life after breast cancer treatment involves many women having numerous questions regarding the after-effects of treatments, what they are going through, diet and exercise, or more practical issues such as resuming to a daily routine. You can schedule an appointment with your family doctor or make use of your next follow-up schedule to find answers to these questions. Remember, no question is stupid.
Over the time and as you come to terms with your breast cancer treatment, your routine life returns to normal and you may find it easier to put it all behind you. During this time it is very important to stick to your plan for long-term health and wellness.