Breast Cancer

Living Beyond Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer diagnosed in American women. While the good news is that early detection & treatment improvements have led to a 42% drop in deaths from breast cancer from 1989 to 2019, thus preventing 431,800 deaths, the fact remains that the focus around breast cancers remains on detection & treatment.

What happens after your treatment plan is over and it is time for you to return to what will be your new normal? The simple fact of the matter is cancer affects you at a physical and emotional level.

Cancer treatments while designed to heal the body can be quite harsh on the body. so it is very important to remain focused on your recovery even when the cancer is gone.

It may seem overwhelming, but a little planning and some help is all it takes.

The new normal

Your new normal life will be that of a breast cancer survivor. It is important to remember is that you are not alone. Early intervention means that more and more women are surviving breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute is studying what it means to survive cancer.

Common issues after end of treatment

Breast Cancer

The most commons issues for women after their treatment ends are

  • Fatigue from chemotherapy.
  • Some women report memory loss and a negative impact on their cognitive function after their treatment stops. This has been loosely termed as ‘chemo brain’.
  • Infertility
  • Inability to breastfeed
  • Absence of periods
  • Pain
  • Coping with changes in their appearance

It is important to remember that most of the side effects can be managed, It is also a good idea to not isolate yourself. There are many programs that help people connect with other breast cancer survivors.

Making a survivorship plan

Breast Cancer

Just how people are unique, your survivorship plan will be unique to match your specific needs. What’s essential is to have a basic roadmap of what it will look like for you.
Consider the following points when making a plan

Cancer is usually split into the detection phase and the treatment phase With the advancement in treatments, many healthcare specialists are now highlighting the need to pay attention to a survivorship plan.

Just how people are unique, your survivorship plan will be unique to match your specific needs. What’s essential is to have a basic roadmap of what it will look like for you.

Consider the following points when making a plan:

  • Making a list of potential and/or long-term side effects and symptoms.
  • Recommended follow-up tests and screenings: Make sure you’re proactively monitoring your health and stay in contact with your doctor till they think you do not require any more follow ups.
  • A diet and exercise plan: Focus on taking care of your body by eating nutritious food and staying as active as your body allows you to be. Do not over strain yourself.
  • Fertility/pregnancy resources: While breast cancer is linked to some complications in pregnancy, research has found that there is no increased rate of birth defects in children born to women who have survived breast cancer.
  • Mental health support: Cancer can take a huge toll on your physical as well as emotional health. It is important to come up with tools which help you feel good. If you can afford it, seeing a mental health professional can help you cope better. While having friends and family around certainly helps some people, remember some mental health professionals specialize in cancer survivorship which can be truly beneficial.
Breast Cancer

Other points you should also consider are:

  • Sex and intimacy support
  • Knowing how you want to talk about your survivorship with people around you
  • Financial planning

Life after breast cancer can feel different to different survivors. Everyone’s journey is unique and that’s the most important thing for you to remember. Focus on what you need, your priorities and what works best for you.