Breast cancer survivorship 101: What next?

Lifestyle changes encouraged for breast cancer survivors

breast cancer survivorship: hand holding letters spelling hope

Who is a breast cancer survivor?

The National Cancer Institute says breast cancer survivorship begins at the time of diagnosis and continues through the balance of the patient’s life. Family members, friends and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.

What happens after treatment is over?

Even after you’re finished your cancer treatments, your cancer care team will want to watch you closely, so follow-up visits are important. These visits can include medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery or gynecology. You will also likely need additional imaging such as mammograms, MRIs or DEXA scans.

Your health care provider can help: Find a Sanford location near you

Will medication be required after treatment?

In many cases, yes. You may be prescribed medications such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors for hormone therapy as well as calcium and vitamin D. It is crucial that you take any recommended medications or supplements regularly.

Are self-exams still helpful after cancer? 

Yes. Self-exams are not only important to perform before a diagnosis; they are equally as important after cancer treatment. Don’t forget to continue regular self-breast and chest-wall exams at home.

What is the ideal cancer survivor lifestyle?

Cancer survivors should adopt healthy lifestyle choices for their overall health as well as to help prevent their cancer from returning:

  • To promote strong, healthy bones, eat calcium-rich foods and incorporate weight-bearing activities.
  • Try to eat five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day, and limit red meat.
  • Participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day (for women) and two drinks per day (for men).
  • Stop smoking.
  • Use sunscreen.

What is a cancer survivorship care plan?

A survivorship care plan is a detailed plan just for you. It helps you move forward after cancer treatment. Many health groups say that health care providers should make such a plan for all of their patients after cancer care.

The care plan is a record of your cancer history. It has information to help you after cancer treatment. You can share it with your current or future health care providers. Always keep a copy of your care plan for your own records.

What are the goals of a survivorship care plan?

A survivorship care plan can be used to help you:

  • Move your routine care back to your main care provider so you can get screenings, flu shots, and other care
  • Make sure you stay in touch with your health care providers as needed
  • Make sure you are treated for physical and emotional side effects
  • Check for a second cancer (a second new cancer) or recurring cancer (cancer that comes back after treatment)
  • Make healthy life changes so you can handle or prevent problems
  • Cut your risk of needing emergency care or a hospital stay
  • Find support after cancer care

Do I need a survivorship care plan?

Breast cancer survivorship care plans are not required. But they can help people adjust to life after cancer treatment. The plan can help you collect all the details about your cancer and treatment. You can then refer to it, if needed. It’s a record you can share with other health care providers who take care of you. It can help you know what to do to stay healthy after treatment. And it can tell you how to watch for future problems. It can also give you information to help handle things like emotional, legal, and financial issues.

Visit our health library for help with your personal care plan.

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Posted In Cancer, Health Information, Women's

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