Breast Cancer Treatments Tips

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What can I expect if I have chemotherapy for breast cancer?

Treating Breast Cancer with Chemotherapy

Well known breast cancer treatment information involving chemotherapy is concerned with trying to find ways to alleviate the side effects that accompany this form of treatment. Often the side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, malaise, nausea and vomiting, changes to the sense of smell and taste, and a complete halt to normal life. In truth, while hair loss, nausea and fatigue are common side effects, chemotherapy treatment affects different people in different ways. With the recent chemotherapy drugs, some people experience only mild side effects. Most people who are on chemotherapy for breast cancer can continue to work and carry on with the functions of daily life. If you are facing breast cancer chemotherapy, never hesitate to consult your doctor about side effects you are experiencing and the best ways to cope with them, and also consider joining a chemotherapy support group to help you stay positive and motivated throughout your treatment.

   
Will my life ever get back to normal after breast cancer treatment?

After Breast Cancer Treatment: Getting Life Back on Track

Your last day of treatment has arrived! Finally, a glimmer of hope that you will be getting your life back. Chemotherapy is over, no more cancer clinic visits -- maybe you will even start seeing some hair soon! But there may be something not-so-satisfying about this moment that you’ve looked forward to for months now. You might even feel a bit sad and confused. If so, you’re normal. You’re normal because you’ve been fighting for your life with your family and friends rallying around supporting you. You’ve been their focus, and even your own thoughts have been inward toward healing and wellness. Now your focus is turning outward again, and family and friends might not be as available, because, after all, now you’re all better, right? Well, yes . . . and no. Oncology treatment is over, but you still have some healing to do, along with physical scars that remind you, daily, of what you’ve been through to get this far. It takes the human body time to recover from catastrophic illness. Give yourself some grace. Your energy level will return again, just keep your pace slow and steady. Fear of a cancer recurrence may also be lurking behind some of your confusion. You might find yourself poking around your lymph nodes thinking – is that a bump I feel? Was that bump there yesterday? What is that sharp pain in my side? While these feelings are normal, they should not be swept under the rug. Talk to your healthcare team about your feelings at your follow-up appointments. Also, consider joining a support group for cancer survivors. Organizations like The Wellness Community (http://www.thewellnesscommunity.org/default.asp) provide free group counseling for breast cancer survivors and their families, and you’ll find other cancer networking groups in the community section of your local newspaper. The last day of treatment is a milestone, celebrate it! But continue giving yourself the time you need to get back into your normal routine.

   
What are the treatment options for breast cancer?

Standard Treatments for Breast Cancer

After you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will outline the treatment choices that are available to you. These standard treatment choices are specific for every person diagnosed, and will depend on where the tumor is located within the breast, the size of the tumor, and how far the cancer has progressed. The less invasive breast cancers can be treated by surgery, however it is typical for the physician to suggest a treatment of surgery, medication, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of any of these methods. Breast cancer patients may face difficult decisions about the extent and duration of the treatment that will take place.

After being informed of the treatment options available for your breast cancer, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before deciding the treatment that is right for you. It is important to remember as a patient, you should fully understand the treatment option you choose. Even if this means receiving a second opinion on which breast cancer treatment option to choose.

   
If I'm not comfortable with available treatment options, could experimental treatments work for me?

Experimental Treatment for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer research is ongoing, and breast cancer treatment information is being investigated daily. New treatments are always being tested, and someone diagnosed with breast cancer can benefit from these new treatments more than they realize. You can choose to take part in a clinical trial that is testing a new form of breast cancer treatment that is still in the experimental stage. This may be an attractive alternative breast cancer treatment if you are not satisfied with the treatment plan that has been recommended to you. Your doctor's office will be able to provide breast cancer treatment information on ongoing clinical trials that might fit your needs, and other information similar to this. The decision about whether or not to join a clinical trial merits thoughtful consideration. It is critical to learn as much as you can about the clinical trial you are considering, and to consult with a trusted physician about how what impact it might have on your health.

   
Will I look the same after breast cancer treatment is over?

Breast Cancer: A Look in the Mirror

One thing that really bothered me when I was in the middle of breast cancer treatment were articles suggesting how I could make myself feel better by wearing bright lipstick or drawing eyebrows on with an eye pencil. Don't get me wrong. Pre-treatment, I never left the house without make-up and hair in place. But I always wondered where the people who wrote those articles for the breast cancer audience were getting their information. The last thing I was concerned about during chemotherapy, when I was vomiting five to six times a day, was whether or not my lipstick was bright enough. For a woman who authored a guide to become a fashion model, I wasn't looking very fashionable during that time, nor did I care. What I cared about was being a breast cancer survivor, and in the end that's what's important. Your hair will grow back, and there will be time to pick the best lip color for the new season. There are also programs that are sensitive to the needs of women in cancer treatment when you are ready, like Look Good . . . Feel Better ® (http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ort/). Until then, don't worry about trying to maintain the same look you had before your breast cancer diagnosis. I'm predicting that you won't emerge the same person. You will learn from breast cancer that there is something incredibly beautiful about the human spirit, and even more beautiful about the survivor whose triumph allows her to continue her unique contributions that make this world a better place.

   
What should I eat while being treated for breast cancer?

Eating Well Through Breast Cancer Therapy

Breast cancer treatment information that might be unknown is the importance of a well-balanced diet in the recovery of the patient. Eating properly is important when undergoing breast cancer therapy. Treatments can cause fatigue, reduce physical strength, and damage tissue, leading to a decrease demand by the body for nutrients. Even though the cancer patient might feel exhausted, they can suffer from a reduced appetite as a side effect of the treatment they are receiving. But eating is a crucial component of in the battle against breast cancer. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C, high-protein foods like meat, beans, and dairy products, and carbohydrate-laden whole grains for energy can help tremendously. Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated during your treatment is also recommended. If a loss of appetite is an issue, try eating smaller but more frequent meals. Smaller bites of food chewed slowly can help fight the nausea, while helping food stay down. If you have trouble with diarrhea or vomiting, keep track of the foods that seem to cause them. Your doctor is also a good source of information to discuss your dietary and digestive problems with. There maybe other solutions to help you keep your breast cancer diet healthy and on track.

   
Can breast cancer be cured with drugs alone?

Drug Therapy as a Treatment for Breast Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will most likely prescribe drugs as part of your treatment. In some patients, medications are used without surgery, though you most likely will take breast cancer drugs in conjunction with, and following your other treatments. Drug therapy is intended to stop cancer cells from dividing into new cells, and spreading to other parts of the body. The most common drug used in breast cancer therapy is tamoxifen. Because breast cancer medication can increase the risk of other cancers, carefully follow your doctor's advice about using prescribed drugs and getting additional cancer screening tests.

   
Is it easy to resume life after breast cancer treatment ends?

The Breast Cancer Experience: When Treatment Ends

Ann, a breast cancer survivor, shared that when she was diagnosed in August of 2004, she quickly counted ahead to February, 2005 calculating that surgery, chemotherapy and radiation would take approximately 6 months (per her oncologist). She kept looking forward, believing that life would return to normal in February. Finally, February arrived and she completed her last day of radiation treatment at the oncology clinic . . . but life was far from normal. Even though her last day of chemotherapy was in November, her hair had not grown back. “I felt exhausted,” she said, “and unable to keep up with my small children. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a cancer patient, not a survivor.” Her friends and family were moving on with their lives, but she felt stuck. Not only that, but chemotherapy had been so much more difficult than she imagined that she began to feel anxious about having a recurrence. Would life ever be the same? Ann's feelings are not uncommon. Even breast cancer patients who go into treatment with a positive attitude can come out feeling beat-up, worn-out, alone and anxious. When treatment ends, it's important to keep in mind that even though you're finished with your oncology appointments, your body needs time to regain strength to handle the physical schedule you had before your diagnosis. For some people this will take months, and for others, it may take over a year. Try to ease into an exercise routine, even if it is only walking around the block each day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Sleep a good eight hours every night. And also ask for help with your children and other responsibilities. No one will know you need the extra help and time to heal unless you tell them. The breast cancer experience may also take an emotional toll when treatment ends. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, nightmares, difficulty sleeping or feelings of detachment seek help through your oncologist. If your oncologist can't help you, he or she can refer you to counselors in your local area who are trained in oncology-related issues or support groups where you can discuss your feelings with people who have had similar experiences. Also, talk to your doctor about the benefits of anti-anxiety medications. Don't be hard on yourself for not being able to “move on” immediately when treatment ends. You are not alone. Remember, this is your second chance to make life what you want it to be. Give yourself the time you need to heal both physically and emotionally.

   
Will I ever look good again after breast cancer treatment?

Looking Your Best During Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer and beauty pageants may not go hand in hand, but there is no reason why a woman should not continue to look her best during treatment. A positive outlook is vital to taking action against breast cancer, and maintaining your appearance can point your attitude in the right direction. Continue your usual makeup regime, using concealer to mask any dark circles you may have under your eyes. If you are receiving chemotherapy, use mascara and an eyebrow pencil to add emphasis to thinning lashes and brows. Wear hats, scarves, or wigs if you feel self-conscious about thinning hair, or wear your hair in a shorter style to mask thin patches. Moisturize dry skin and apply sunscreen daily. Treat yourself to regular manicures and pedicures as well. There is no time like now to pamper yourself. After all, the better you look, the better you will feel.

   
How can massage therapy help a breast cancer patient?

The Healing Touch for a Breast Cancer Patient

In addition to the medical treatment and therapies recommended by your doctor, there are alternative therapies that can facilitate healing. One such method is massage therapy. Massage therapy is when a licensed therapist rubs or kneads your body's soft tissue to make it feel better. This rubbing and kneading stimulates nerves and increases blow flow, which will relax your muscles. The massage therapist can gently rub the surface of the skin, or rigorously knead deep muscle tissues, whichever you prefer. You may also choose whether you want to focus on a general area, like your neck or back, or have an all-body massage. Massage therapy helps a breast cancer patient on an emotional level as well as physical because it relieves tension and stress. Even the human touch will help a breast cancer patient feel better, as many people around you may treat you as “fragile”, or be afraid to touch you when your white cell count is down in fear of passing a virus to you. After treatment, a massage therapist can show you how to knead surgery scar tissue to help you become more comfortable with the tissue and make it softer to your touch. If you are presently in treatment, talk to your oncology team before you begin massage therapy. You doctor may have recommendations on what areas the massage therapist should avoid, and what methods the therapist should use. The American Massage Therapy Association (http://www.amtamassage.org/) will help you find a qualified therapist in your area. Massage therapy cannot cure breast cancer, but used as an additional therapy, it will improve your feeling of well-being and promote your overall feeling of wellness.

   
Will I need surgery for breast cancer?

Surgery as a Treatment for Breast Cancer

A majority of breast cancer patients have surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Depending on the nature and extent of the cancer, surgery can involve either, removing a tumor or lump (lumpectomy), a portion of the breast (partial mastectomy), the complete breast and the lining over the chest muscles (modified radical mastectomy), or the complete breast and underlying chest muscles (radical mastectomy). Commonly the surgeon will also remove lymph nodes under the arm that drain the breast and chest area. These lymph nodes will then be tested for the appearance of cancer cells. Surgery due to breast cancer can have a significant impact on a woman's self image and ability to function. If you're facing surgical treatment for breast cancer, talk to someone about how you are feeling and surround yourself with a strong, loving support system.

   
Will I look the same after breast cancer treatment is over?

Breast Cancer: A Look in the Mirror

One thing that really bothered me when I was in the middle of breast cancer treatment were articles suggesting how I could make myself feel better by wearing bright lipstick or drawing eyebrows on with an eye pencil. Don't get me wrong. Pre-treatment, I never left the house without make-up and hair in place. But I always wondered where the people who wrote those articles for the breast cancer audience were getting their information. The last thing I was concerned about during chemotherapy, when I was vomiting five to six times a day, was whether or not my lipstick was bright enough. For a woman who authored a guide to become a fashion model, I wasn't looking very fashionable during that time, nor did I care. What I cared about was being a breast cancer survivor, and in the end that's what's important. Your hair will grow back, and there will be time to pick the best lip color for the new season. There are also programs that are sensitive to the needs of women in cancer treatment when you are ready, like Look Good . . . Feel Better ® (http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.ort/). Until then, don't worry about trying to maintain the same look you had before your breast cancer diagnosis. I'm predicting that you won't emerge the same person. You will learn from breast cancer that there is something incredibly beautiful about the human spirit, and even more beautiful about the survivor whose triumph allows her to continue her unique contributions that make this world a better place.

   
How can I communicate with my oncology team about breast cancer when I don't understand it myself?

After Diagnosis: Learning to Speak the Language of Breast Cancer

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you'll find yourself in a new world that speaks a different language. Your oncologist will refer to new terms like: mammography report, cancer stages and symptoms, surgery options, chemotherapy, radiation, pathology results, metastasis, tumor markers, clinical trials . . . it's information overload. How can you communicate with your oncology team about something that is so foreign to you? There is a way that you can understand all of these terms and more as they pertain to you, personally, from the comfort of your own home by using the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or are experiencing a recurrence after previous treatment, this tool will enable you to become an active participant in your treatment decisions. When you log in the site for the first time, you will answer a questionnaire about your breast cancer diagnosis. You don't have to know all the answers about your diagnosis. Nexprofiler will generate a report from your answers that will include questions to take to your oncology team to fill in any information you lack. Not only that, but your report will also include information about your personal treatment plan including side effects you may not be aware of as well as access to information about clinical studies. Recommended by the American Cancer Society, the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer is a free service, and they will never share your personal information with anyone without your permission. It's an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of your personal breast cancer treatment in a non-pressure situation, know the right questions to ask your oncology team, and learn to speak the language of breast cancer at your own pace.

   
Are certain foods harmful to breast cancer patients?

Feeding a Low White Blood Cell Count During Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause a low white blood cell count. As a result, breast cancer patients should pay special attention to reducing exposure to bacteria from foods. You may not be aware that certain ingredients may be dangerous, like raw eggs in Caesar salad dressing. Raw eggs should always be avoided in recipes. Other foods that harm are raw or undercooked meats, fish or vegetables. Unpasteurized juices, milk and milk products should also be avoided. Don't eat foods that sit out in salad bars, delicatessens, buffets and potluck dinners (even if the latter offends your favorite aunt). Never thaw food on the kitchen counter at room temperature before cooking it. Foods should be thawed in the refrigerator or microwave oven and cooked immediately. Always use a separate cutting board for meats and vegetables. Also, don't eat leftovers in the fridge that are more than 24 hours old. When you have a low white blood cell count during breast cancer, your body's immune system may not be able to fight infection, so it is important to lessen your exposure to infection-causing organisms in food.

   
What can I expect if I receive radiation therapy for breast cancer?

Treating Breast Cancer with Radiation

Anyone concerned about undergoing radiation therapy for treatment of breast cancer should not be. Radiation is a form of energy in which, when directed at the breast tissue, helps to cure the cancer by destroying any cancer cells that may have been left behind after surgery. Unlike chemotherapy, in which chemicals travel through the body, radiation therapy and its side effects are for the most part limited to the cancerous breast. The therapy is not usually painful, though skin irritation can cause minor discomfort. If you are facing radiation therapy for breast cancer, your doctor will supply you with detailed information that can take the mystery out of your treatment. Talking to other people who have undergone radiation therapy can also help put your mind at ease, and give you a better understanding of radiation in the treatment of breast cancer.

   
How can I communicate with my oncology team about breast cancer when I don't understand it myself?

After Diagnosis: Learning to Speak the Language of Breast Cancer

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you'll find yourself in a new world that speaks a different language. Your oncologist will refer to new terms like: mammography report, cancer stages and symptoms, surgery options, chemotherapy, radiation, pathology results, metastasis, tumor markers, clinical trials . . . it's information overload. How can you communicate with your oncology team about something that is so foreign to you? There is a way that you can understand all of these terms and more as they pertain to you, personally, from the comfort of your own home by using the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or are experiencing a recurrence after previous treatment, this tool will enable you to become an active participant in your treatment decisions. When you log in the site for the first time, you will answer a questionnaire about your breast cancer diagnosis. You don't have to know all the answers about your diagnosis. Nexprofiler will generate a report from your answers that will include questions to take to your oncology team to fill in any information you lack. Not only that, but your report will also include information about your personal treatment plan including side effects you may not be aware of as well as access to information about clinical studies. Recommended by the American Cancer Society, the Nexprofiler Treatment Option Tool for Breast Cancer is a free service, and they will never share your personal information with anyone without your permission. It's an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of your personal breast cancer treatment in a non-pressure situation, know the right questions to ask your oncology team, and learn to speak the language of breast cancer at your own pace.

   
What is The Wellness Community?

Free Cancer Support at The Wellness Community

For many women, a breast cancer diagnosis is more than just a health crisis. It's also a financial crisis. Many breast cancer patients find they can't work as many hours as they were working before cancer due to medical appointments, side effects of treatment and fatigue. Some may not be able to work at all. The Wellness Community is a national nonprofit organization that offers hope for all people affected by cancer, regardless of income. There are 21 wellness communities across the United States. They provide a wide range of support for cancer patients, survivors and their families – free of cost! The Wellness Community offers free counseling and support groups lead by licensed psychotherapists for cancer patients. Counseling and support groups are also offered for family members of the patient. In addition, The Wellness Community holds classes on important topics like exercise, nutrition, stress and alternative methods of healing. In a home-like setting, each patient is supported in focusing on quality of life, reducing stress and regaining control of life.

   
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William Pirraglia