You or your loved one have battled through the breast cancer diagnosis and treatments,
but what happens after that? “Survivorship” can mean many things to different people,
but it’s also one of the most complicated aspects of having cancer. Presidio Home Care
is here to help your loved one navigate life after treatment.
Long-Term Side Effects of Breast Cancer
During treatment, it’s normal to expect side effects. However, many cancer survivors will
experience side effects months — or even years — after the last treatment. Long-term
and late effects can include both physical and emotional changes. Effects vary based on
the treatment selected. Examples include:
Surgery. After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, the breast may be scarred and take on a different shape or size. The area around the surgical site may harden. If lymph nodes were removed or affected during treatment, lymphedema (an abnormal buildup of fluid in soft tissue) may be found in the arms, head, neck, belly or legs.
Radiation therapy. Cancer patients may experience breathlessness, a dry cough, or chest pain. Radiation may cause swelling and hardening/thickening of the lungs, known as fibrosis. Treated with steroids, symptoms are similar to pneumonia.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy patients have a higher risk of fatigue and memory deficits, and may struggle with their ability to focus. Weight gain and numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes are also potential long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
Hormonal therapy. Women taking tamoxifen should have yearly pelvic exams, as this drug can slightly increase the risk of uterine cancer and blood clots. This risk increases with the duration of administration of the hormonal therapy.
Emotional effects. This entire process can be scary, and it’s normal to experience a slew of overwhelming feelings as your loved one finishes treatment. On one hand, you could feel excited, relieved and joyful; on the other, you could feel tired, sad, or anxious.
By tracking symptoms, your cancer team can develop a plan to support your physical as
well as emotional health. And in coordination with your care team, Presidio Home Care
Aides can also provide follow-up and survivorship care services such as meal prep,
exercise assistance, medication and appointment tracking, general observation, and
transport — to ease the transition back to normalcy.
Watching Out for Recurrence
For some women, breast cancer may return years later. This is known as recurrence.
There are three types:
Local. The cancer has returned in the same place it first started.
Regional. The cancer has returned in the lymph nodes near the same place the cancer started.
Distant. The cancer has returned but in a different part of the body, some distance from where it started (often the lungs, liver, bone, or brain).
According to the American Cancer Society, there are a few symptoms that could be a
sign of larger issues. If you experience any of the problems listed below, consider
informing your cancer team. They include:
Return of the cancer symptoms you had before (for example, a lump or new growth where your cancer first started)
New or unusual pain that’s unrelated to an injury and doesn’t go away
Weight loss without trying
Easy bleeding or unexplained bruising
A rash or allergic reaction, such as swelling, severe itching, or wheezing
Chills or fevers
Shortness of breath
Bloody stools or blood in your urine
New lumps, bumps, or swelling with no known cause
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or trouble swallowing
A cough that doesn’t go away
Any other signs your cancer care team has talked to you about or any unusual symptoms that you just can’t explain
While there are no guarantees to prevent breast cancer from returning, it is helpful to go
to all of your follow-up appointments. These visits are opportunities for your doctors to
check in and ask you about any ongoing issues.
Talk to your cancer care team about your worries and concerns. Ask for a list of common
symptoms for your type of cancer to see if it’s consistent with your current symptoms.
Have additional questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out.
Getting the Support You Need
Whether it’s getting your loved one to follow-up appointments with specialists,
implementing healthy lifestyle changes or simply providing companionship, Presidio
Home Care Aides are highly trained and ready to accommodate your needs as you
navigate the next chapter of your care journey.
Contact Us today to learn more.