October 10, 2018

How Does Life Change After Breast Cancer Treatment?

The chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and other procedures used to treat your breast cancer are complete. It’s an accomplishment of which you and – your supporters – should be proud. As you take a deep breath and start to live your life again, you probably also have questions about what the next chapter will look like.

Life After Breast Cancer Recovery

Life as a breast cancer survivor will certainly be different than life before your cancer was detected. Below are some physical and emotional changes you can expect.

  • Changes in your appearance. As you know, mastectomy, lumpectomy, and other procedures may result in scarring. Then there are the changes in the shape and symmetry of your breasts. Breast reconstruction, a breast prosthesis and other measures can address those physical reminders of your cancer treatment, but only to a degree. You are still you, but your body is different.
  • Emotional challenges. Breast cancer survivors tend to experience an array of strong feelings. Yours may include joy at beating the disease, sadness at the loss of one or both breasts, anger over having had the disease to begin with and even guilt if other patients you met on your journey did not survive. Counseling can be very helpful as you attempt to process all these emotions.
  • Fertility issues. If you want to have children, you may find that more difficult after breast cancer treatment. Changes in your body caused by chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other treatments may result in temporary or permanent infertility. Be sure to talk with your oncologist about your desire to conceive children before beginning your treatment.
  • Changes affecting sexuality and intimacy. From changes in your appearance to low libido and vaginal dryness, cancer treatment can have an impact on your sexuality and intimacy. Don’t hesitate to talk with your gynecologist and others on your care team about any issues you encounter. Open, honest communication with your partner is also helpful.
  • Career and financial issues. During breast cancer treatment, you should be fully focused on getting well. However, as you make the transition into full survivor mode, you may have issues related to your job and your finances that must be addressed.

Following breast cancer treatment, you can also expect more frequent visits to the doctor for follow-up care and testing. Initially, you may have appointments every few months, but if you remain cancer-free, the frequency will decrease over a period of years.

Breast Cancer Survival Rates

Another question many breast cancer survivors have is, “Will my cancer come back?” What is known as “survival rates” indicate the percentage of people with a condition similar to yours that are still alive a certain number of years (often five years) after they were diagnosed with cancer.

These rates can provide some general context for your situation. However, it is important to keep in mind that they are only estimates. If you are interested in knowing about the survival rate for your scenario, your doctor can provide the most current statistics.

Life as a breast cancer survivor can be challenging, but your care team and your loved ones can help you make the transition. Be sure to take advantage of their support.

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