Living With Breast Cancer

Living With Breast Cancer

Living With Breast Cancer
If you're going through treatment or know someone battling breast cancer, there are resources available to help. For male and female breast cancer patients, it can be a challenge on a daily basis, as there's not only physical pain to deal with, but also feelings of anxiety or fear. Groups for breast cancer patients, friends and family can help provide psychological and spiritual support. A person's sex life also changes during breast cancer treatment -- but it's worth exploring options to help maintain your self-esteem and keep stress low. On a daily basis, regular exercise and a healthy diet can have a positive influence on breast cancer treatment. Learn more about living with breast cancer with expert advice from Sharecare.

Recently Answered

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    Fatigue is a major problem if you are receiving treatment for breast cancer, particularly if you're undergoing chemotherapy. Many women also complain about "chemo brain," in which they feel like they can't remember anything.

    That's why you must take care of yourself first. That means napping instead of volunteering; working a shorter schedule during and after treatment; hiring out certain chores, if you can afford it; and even asking the student down the street to do your grocery shopping.

    It's also a time when you should call upon the people in your life who love you. Most people want to help -- they just don't know what to do. So tell them.

    Ask a close friend to organize a dinner brigade, assigning neighborhood families a night to bring your family dinner. Call on a friend to drive if you feel too tired to drive yourself.

    And seek out other women with breast cancer, either in a formal or informal support group, in person or online. Numerous studies find that such support can improve your overall quality of life.
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    You can go to the American Cancer Society website; they usually have lots of good support groups, the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization also has access to support groups in the area.
     
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    The American Cancer Society estimates that up to 15 percent of young breast cancer survivors become pregnant at least once after their diagnosis. Breast cancer is most likely to return, or recur, within the first two years after treatment.

    There is no significant data that says pregnancy worsens your prognosis or increases the chance that the cancer will come back. We generally recommend that breast cancer survivors wait at least two years after treatment before trying to conceive.

    There are different treatment options for women who get breast cancer in their childbearing years. When considering fertility issues, it’s important for your surgeon and other doctors, including oncologists and reproductive endocrinologists, to work closely together. 
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    Because of the complex nature of cancer-related pain, successful pain management usually involves a combination of techniques to seek a balance between pain relief and quality of life.
    • One therapeutic approach, pharmacological pain control, involves the use of medications. Some common breast cancer pain medications include anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics and steroids.
    • In addition, breast cancer patients often experience neuropathic pain, particularly after breast cancer surgery. Your pain management practitioner will consult with other members of your care team to provide nerve injections, implanted pain pumps or nerve stimulation devices like transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) to help promote nerve regeneration.
    • Other breast cancer pain control options may include palliative treatments to improve your comfort and quality of life. For example, for breast cancer that has spread to the liver, radiation therapy may help to reduce the size of the tumor on the liver. If you experience pleural effusion (abnormal fluid build-up around the lungs), a thoracentesis can drain fluid that surrounds the lungs and help you breathe better.
    Aside from your oncologists, your breast cancer pain management practitioner will also consult regularly with the complementary medicine clinicians in your care team to balance pain medicine with supportive options, such as oncology rehabilitation therapies, naturopathic medicine and mind-body medicine.
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    Breast cancer recovery can begin a couple of days after surgery. It starts with gentle exercises for the first six weeks. These exercises will relieve some of the pain and prevent scar tissue from forming. All exercises should focus on breathing because this will help to relieve some pain. After six weeks, the exercises should begin to focus on building strength. Strength building will help you improve your range of motion. Your doctor or surgeon should approve all exercises before you begin.

    To keep your arm and shoulder from getting stiff, try to exercise twice per day. Slowly begin to reintroduce daily activities such as yard work, laundry, or driving when you feel your body is capable. If you experience any pain, immediately stop the activity.

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    Keep a notebook or journal. As you think of questions, write them down. This eliminates the stress caused by you trying to remember too many things. Use part of the notebook to keep track of dates and types of tests and treatments. Use part of the notebook to track lab results. Keep the names, addresses, and contact phone numbers of anyone involved in your care in the notebook. Bring the notebook with you to all of your appointments.
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    A , Physiology, answered
    Easy aerobic exercise for cancer patients can help to lessen fatigue, reduce inflammation,
    increase hemoglobin levels, keep muscles in shape for better every day activities, increase self confidence, reduce depression, and aid in recovery of surgery.
    Other research has shown strength and flexibility exercises have helped patients return to a normal activity level sooner. Exercise and social support seem to increase the life expectancy of breast cancer survivors, preventing recurrance.
    At the beginning, gentle move a few minutes at a time, and build up at your own pace.
    Try walking, light aerobics or swimming. As you get stronger, add a couple of days a week of light resistance training. On days you feel more tired, try doing some stretches.
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    A , Women's Health, answered
    Hot flashes can be a real challenge to good quality of life in the perimenopausal woman who has breast cancer or is a breast cancer survivor. Estrogen use in the form of a pill or spray or patch that supplies estrogen to the whole body is not recommended.
    The only medicinal substitute shown to be as effective at treating hot flashes as estrogen is gabapentin, brand name Neurontin. The typical dose is 300mg taken three times a day. Gabapentin does have its own set of side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, swelling in the hands and feet, headache, and nausea, among others. Starting at a low dose and gradually increasing the dose to the effective or recommended level helps reduce or eliminate the side effects.
    Many forms of drugs typically used to treat depression have been studied. In general, these drugs were minimally effective, lowering the number of hot flashes by one episode per day.
    Soy protein, and its active ingredient called isoflavone, has been effective at reducing hot flashes in some studies while not in others. The amount generally recommended is 50 grams or about 2 ounces of soy daily.
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    A , Oncology, answered
    It is important that your focus on tests and treatments does not prevent you from taking care of your emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. A lot of women dealing with breast cancer find themselves overwhelmed by emotions.
    You may find that you think about the potential of your own death, or the effect cancer has on your family, friends, and career. The changes to your body can be hard to deal with and may impact how you feel about sex and relationships. You may also begin to re-evaluate your relationship with your spouse or partner.
    This is an ideal time to seek out emotional and social support. You need people you can turn to for strength and comfort. Support can come in many forms: family, friends, cancer support groups, church or spiritual groups, online support communities, or individual counselors. Whatever your source of strength or comfort, make sure you have a place to go with your concerns.
    If you aren't sure who can help, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and we can put you in touch with an appropriate group or resource. 
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    A Surgical Oncology, answered on behalf of
    A woman with breast cancer needs not only cancer treatment but frequently also a lot of supportive care. It depends on where she is in her life at the time of the breast cancer diagnosis. The need for supportive care can be different from person to person. For example, a young woman with breast cancer before she completes her family may need to see a fertility expert before receiving any cancer drug. Similarly, a pregnant woman may need to see an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancy. Women with an excessive family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or other types of cancer should see a genetic counselor before choosing the type of breast cancer surgery. Many, if not all, women with breast cancer can benefit from some form of psychosocial supportive activity, and physical therapy frequently is very helpful for women after breast cancer surgery.