4 common side effects after breast cancer treatment

September 09, 2019 | by Amaryllis Gil, MD

Once you have completed your breast cancer treatment, you may continue to experience symptoms that can be challenging. Some side effects can last for months and maybe years.

What side effects are most common after breast cancer treatment?

It’s difficult to know exactly what side effects you’ll experience, as breast cancer is a disease that affects different people in different ways. The treatment you received, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone-blocking therapy, can each produce different effects.

Breast cancer survivors may deal with a whole range of symptoms, from headaches to heart problems and even blood clots. Some of the most common symptoms that many survivors experience after they have completed treatment are fatigue, mood swings, weight changes and lymphedema.

Fatigue and mood changes usually occur in individuals who had hormone-blocking therapy, as this treatment often disrupts sleeping patterns.  Patients who have chemotherapy receive steroids and, as a consequence, may experience weight gain. Surgery for breast cancer can interrupt normal lymph flow and cause fluid to build up, which may result in lymphedema.

Try these four ways to manage symptoms

  1. Ask your doctor about prescription medication. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications to treat nausea, pain, anxiety and other issues that contribute to these symptoms.
  2. Eat a balanced diet.  Eating healthy can be difficult, but it is an essential part of recovery. The right diet, including a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, will help you maintain a healthy weight. Good hydration is important as well.
  3. See a professional counselor. Talking about your emotions with a counselor can help with any mood changes you experience, and help you sleep better and feel better overall. Support groups may be a great resource, too.
  4. Stay as active as possible. Exercise is critical. Staying active can help you balance your emotions, boost energy and maintain weight. While it can be a strain physically and mentally to get yourself to exert the necessary energy to exercise, it is paramount to your overall recovery.

Be sure to follow up with your doctor

There is nothing more important or beneficial to your recovery from breast cancer than consulting with your doctor and consistently making your follow-up appointments for your surveillance and screenings.

Not only can your doctor help you with managing side effects after breast cancer treatment ends, but he/she can spot any warning signs of a possible recurrence.

From diagnosis to getting through treatment and dealing with what comes after, this whole experience can be challenging and overwhelming. Keeping an open and constant dialogue with your doctor is vital.

Edward-Elmhurst Health has created a Cancer Survivorship Clinic to assist with the transition from active treatment to cancer survivor. The Survivorship Clinic provides a one-time visit with an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, who will partner with your oncologist and your primary care physician to help you prepare for the transition to survivorship.

Related blogs:

Late effects of cancer and how to manage them

6 tips to fight the fear of cancer returning

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