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Breast Cancer: Life After Treatment

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

  • Frequent headaches

  • 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.

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