Throughout October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, experts from
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and its clinical care partner, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, are offering weekly research-based tip sheets regarding breast cancer prevention, screening and early detection, treatment and survivorship.
Today’s tip sheet, the fourth and final in the series, is ’10 Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors’ written by Karen Syrjala, Ph.D., director of Biobehavioral Sciences and co-director of the Survivorship Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
10 Tips for Breast cancer Survivors
– 1. Get a summary of your treatments. Have a list of what surgery, radiation and chemotherapy doses you received so that you can communicate these to your primary care providers. This will help you plan for the next tip on the list.
– 2. Make a plan for monitoring the long-term effects of your cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about the potential long-term effects of your cancer treatment and what to watch out for. For example, some cancer treatments can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems or second cancers; others can impact your bones. If you want more information, make an appointment with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Survivorship Program or check LiveStrongCarePlan.org.
– 3. Learn how to manage the fear of cancer coming back. First, find out your risk of recurrence from your health care provider. Second, remember that risk is based on averages and does not apply to you as an individual. Third, consider counseling or other assistance to help you face your fears and move forward.
– 4. Get moving. If you pick one healthy thing to change in your life, physical activity is likely to make the fastest change in how you feel and also potentially reduce your cancer-related risks. Make opportunities to walk or take stairs. Find an exercise program to join to get you started if it’s just too hard to do alone. Check your local YMCA for a LIVESTRONG exercise program near where you live.
– 5. Eat well. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect, but fruits, vegetables and whole grains can make a difference in how you feel. Starting to eat more healthy foods can make it easier to avoid the things that add weight or complicate digestion. Talk to a nutritionist if you are unsure what is healthy for you or if you have digestion problems.
– 6. Live a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and nutrition are part of the picture, but not the whole. To help ensure your long-term survival and a better quality of life, don’t smoke, limit alcoholic drinks to one per day, and use sunscreen to protect your skin. Make sure you get sufficient vitamin D. Your doctor can do a blood test to determine the amount of vitamin D in your body and make recommendations for how to get the right amount.
– 7. Reclaim your body. Most women gain weight following breast cancer treatment. Weight control is important. Menopause, tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors can lead to body changes and weight gain. Check with your doctor and a nutritionist and consider joining an exercise program to help you control your weight and build muscle instead of fat.
– 8. Manage symptoms. Don’t suffer unnecessarily. Talk to your doctor if you have fatigue or lack of stamina that does not improve with time, chemobrain that makes it hard to work or remember what you need to do, or other aches, pains and symptoms that make it hard to enjoy your life. Make an appointment to focus solely on the symptoms that reduce your quality of life.
– 9. Connect with other survivors. Your family and friends are great support pillars. However, many women find it immensely valuable to talk or exercise with women who have experienced what they have and truly understand what it’s like to be a survivor.
– 10. Make use of resources. There are lots of options in the community and online for cancer survivors and especially breast cancer survivors. Some options are Gilda’s Club, Cancer Lifeline and Team Survivor Northwest. Online, visit CancerCare , Live Strong and Susan G Komen for the Cure .
Earlier versions of ’10 Tips’ included:
Oct. 1 – “10 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention” by Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center, a member of the Public Health Sciences Division, and author of “Breast Fitness” (St. Martin’s Press).
Oct. 8 – “10 Tips for Breast Cancer Screening and Early Detection” by Constance Lehman, M.D., Ph.D., director of Breast Imaging and medical director of Radiology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Oct. 15 – “10 Tips for Breast Cancer Patients During Treatment” by Julie Gralow, M.D., director of Breast Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and co-author of “Breast Fitness” (St. Martin’s Press).
Oct. 22 – “10 Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors” by Karen Syrjala, Ph.D., director of Biobehavioral Sciences and co-director of the Survivorship Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.