Background for patients:
We are fortunate to live in a time when science and “evidence-based care” allows the majority of people diagnosed with cancer to survive the experience. This was certainly not always the case.
Breast cancer survivors (women living with and through breast cancer) represent the largest group of cancer survivors in the United States – topping 3.1 million women!
Surviving cancer is a life changing experience. No matter what treatment a woman has there are bound to be changes to her breast (s), body, mind and spirit. Some positive, some not.
We should also not forget that cancer affects a woman’s entire family and that as women transition into long-term survivorship their families also continue to deal with the experience and transition as well. Since people cope at different paces, relationship strain can also be a part of cancer survivorship.
The science of cancer survivorship is relatively new. In 2005 the Institute of Medicine published a landmark report called, “Lost in Transition…..” that informed health care providers of the difficulties faced by people who transitioned from receiving cancer treatment to moving on with their lives. Challenges to cancer survivorship may include:
- managing the fear of cancer recurrence, anxiety, and depressive-symptoms
- transitioning back into the work/school environment
- resuming sexual intimacy
- starting a family
- managing changes in relationships with family and friends
- knowing when to seek cancer screening and risk assessment for breast and other cancers
- resuming or beginning a healthy lifestyle including smoking cessation, weight management, and exercise
- monitoring cardiovascular heath
- managing physical changes including possible lymphedema
- and more…
Today, many cancer centers have clinics and clinicians (primarily Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants) who specialize in the care of women who have finished breast cancer treatment.
- Weight gain during and/or after breast cancer treatment a health concern.
- Young woman treated with lumpectomy will not have concerns about their body image.
- Young cancer survivors may require more intensive cancer screening than older survivors.
Watch the video on this page for the latest information on treating survivors of cancer and answers to these questions.