Breast cancer survivorship 101: What next?

Lifestyle changes encouraged for breast cancer survivors

breast cancer survivorship: hand holding letters spelling hope with a pink ribbon as the letter O.

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 may also 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 some cases, yes. You may be prescribed hormone therapy medications, as well as calcium and vitamin D. It is important that you take any recommended medications or supplements as prescribed and communicate with your care team if experiencing undesirable side effects.

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:

  • Eating calcium-rich foods and incorporating weight-bearing activities to promote strong, healthy bones
  • Trying to eat five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Limiting red meat
  • Limiting alcohol to one drink per day (for women) and two drinks per day (for men)
  • Participating in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week.
  • Not smoking
  • Using sunscreen

What is a cancer survivorship care plan?

A survivorship care plan is a detailed document for your records about your specific cancer type and treatment. Care plans are sent out after completing all treatment, and includes:

  • A list of on your care team
  • Details of your biopsy results
  • Details of your treatment
  • National recommendations for follow up care over the next 5+ years
  • A list of things to watch for going forward
  • Information on possible late term effects of treatment
  • A list of resources if you are looking for more information

This document is also shared with all providers caring for you going forward, including your primary care doctor. Sharing this document ensures everyone is on the same page in caring for your needs.

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
  • Stay in touch with your health care team as needed
  • Be mindful of possible physical and emotional side effects and encourage you to reach out for help managing these when needed
  • Identify signs of a potential second cancer or recurring cancer (cancer that comes back after treatment)
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes
  • Find support after cancer care

At Edith Sanford Breast Center, our team guides you — and your family — as you adjust to the emotional, mental and physical changes that come during and after breast cancer treatment. We support you with integrative health services, genetic counseling, mentorship, support groups, retreats, education, mindfulness classes, sexual health resources and more. To learn more about breast cancer survivorship, visit edith.sanfordhealth.org.

Posted In Cancer, Cancer Screenings, Cancer Treatments, Imaging, Internal Medicine, Specialty Care, Women's

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