Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with over two million new cases diagnosed annually. A breast cancer diagnosis is life-altering, and surviving is a testament to your resilience and strength. However, the road to recovery is often long and challenging.
As a survivor, you face the task of readjusting to life after treatment. This can include unique challenges, but there are ways to improve your quality of life and overall well-being. Continue reading for essential tips to help breast cancer survivors navigate this new chapter and flourish in their post-treatment lives.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet is crucial in maintaining your overall well-being. It strengthens the immune system and can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Conversely, diets high in meat, alcohol, and certain types of fat can increase the risk of breast cancer. Instead, incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your daily meals while limiting your intake of processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars.
2. Engage in Regular Physical Activity
Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and a better quality of life and reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In addition, physical activity has stress-reducing benefits, like increasing endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It can also enhance your mood, help you relax, and improve your sleep.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. Consult with your healthcare team to create a personalized fitness plan.
3. Prioritize Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
Addressing the emotional and psychological challenges accompanying survivorship is crucial. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups. Consider professional help if you experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.
Support groups and therapy can help survivors process emotions, cope with the fear of recurrence, and rebuild self-esteem. Sharing your story with others can provide healing and inspire hope. Consider joining a support group like Surviving Breast Cancer’s Thursday Night Thrivers.
4. Manage Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment due to removing or damaging lymph nodes, causing swelling and discomfort. Working with a certified lymphedema therapist can help manage symptoms and prevent complications. You can learn more about preventative measures and early intervention strategies from your healthcare team or the National Lymphedema Network for resources and a therapist directory.
5. Stay Informed About Post-Treatment Care
Regular check-ups with your healthcare team to monitor for recurrence or new cancers are essential. Post-treatment care may include regular mammograms (if you still have breast tissue), physical exams, and symptom assessments. Communicate with your healthcare team to ensure you understand your ongoing care and any signs of potential recurrence.
6. Be Vigilant About Bone Health
Breast cancer treatments can impact bone health, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Talk with your healthcare provider about bone density screenings, supplements, and lifestyle changes to improve bone health.
7. Explore Complementary Therapies
8. Consider Breast Reconstruction or Prosthetics
Breast reconstruction and prosthetics can help improve self-esteem and body image after surgery. Consider consulting with a plastic surgeon to discuss options and determine the best choice for your needs.
9. Embrace Your “New Normal”
Adjusting to life after breast cancer may require reevaluating priorities, setting new goals, and accepting a “new normal.” Give yourself time and space to process your experience and make necessary changes.
Count On Us for Information, Resources, and Support
We hope these tips will help you optimize your physical and emotional well-being, paving the way for a thriving life after breast cancer. Remember that this is an ongoing process, so don't be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. If you have any questions about these tips, please reach out to us — we’re here for you!
Whether you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, are navigating survivorship, or are the loved one of someone experiencing breast cancer, you can count on SurvivingBreastCancer.org to keep you informed. We provide educational information to help you better understand symptoms, testing, treatment options, surgery, etc., and podcasts that feature professionals, advocates, and caregivers that share valuable information.
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