Hamilton Health Care System
Hamilton Health Care System
Finally, the day you thought might never come has arrived. Your treatment for breast cancer is behind you. You're in recovery mode. That's good!
But it may take a while for things to get back to normal. Fatigue, worry, stress and treatment side effects don't necessarily disappear overnight. And new concerns may be added.
The good news? There are resources to help you get through this time.
5 common concerns
1. Fear that cancer will return. It's normal to worry that your cancer will return. And it could. But there are ways to handle your fears.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and what you can do.
Some people, for example, might find that engaging in activities they enjoy helps them avoid focusing on fear. Others gain confidence by setting goals, such as celebrating a wedding anniversary, a birth or a college graduation.
You also can choose to focus on staying well, which may help you feel more in control of your future. For example:
2. Tamoxifen troubles. Tamoxifen is often taken for 10 years after cancer treatment ends to help prevent cancer recurrence. Side effects can include tiredness, hot flashes and vaginal discharge. However, these undesirable reactions are generally treatable. Tamoxifen may also cause severe side effects like cancer of the uterus, blood clots in the lungs and stroke. But those are rare.
Newer medicines—called aromatase inhibitors (AIs)—may be another option. These are usually given to women who are past menopause and whose cancers are hormone-receptor positive. AIs are usually taken daily for up to five years, according to the ACS. AIs can cause menopause symptoms and increase bone thinning, which can cause osteoporosis. If you are taking an AI, your doctor may want to check your bone density.
3. Lingering side effects. Some side effects of treatment may linger. Most can be treated; others may resolve on their own. For example:
4. Body image/sexuality issues. Losing hair and one or both breasts can be traumatic for some people; others take it in stride. But hair will grow back, and breast reconstruction is possible if you're interested, even if it isn't done immediately after surgery. Or, instead of having breast reconstruction, some people choose to wear a custom breast prosthesis.
Wigs, hats and scarves are some of the potential options for dealing with hair loss in the meantime.
Changes in physical appearance may raise concerns about your partner's reaction and how the changes will affect your sexuality. Find a time to talk openly about your needs and your partner's feelings.
You should feel comfortable talking with your healthcare team about body image and sexuality too. And you shouldn't hesitate to seek professional counseling if necessary.
5. Depression and anxiety. When you aren't feeling well physically and emotionally, depression and anxiety may follow. Just like the cancer itself, these feelings need to be treated. To find out if you might be experiencing depression, take this short risk assessment.
Your hospital can be an excellent source for support services you may need, including nursing, social services, nutrition information, rehabilitation facilities and spiritual services.
Some people turn to individual or group counseling or self-help groups for support. Others may rely primarily on family and friends.
Free online support programs on the ACS website include the volunteer program and the Cancer Survivors Network, an online community created by and for cancer survivors and their caregivers to share stories, support and practical tips for living with cancer and its effects.