October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one of the aspects of “awareness” comes from knowing about the disease, its signs and symptoms, and your risk. These are all important parts of helping to prevent and treat this disease, which will affect about one in eight women.
But what about those who have already been through breast cancer? For survivors, life is often different for months or even years after treatment ends. You may want to just get back to life as it was before cancer, but certain things make that seem impossible.
In honor of these brave survivors, and those who are still fighting, let’s acknowledge their ongoing struggles and obstacles so we can better support them as they finish treatment and begin life after breast cancer. Here are some of the after-effects of breast cancer treatment:
- Chemotherapy can have lasting effects. Many people who have been through chemotherapy will tell you that they continued to feel tired for months after the last treatment. In addition, many people have trouble concentrating and remembering things. When you’re trying to get back to work, family, and your normal life, this can be frustrating and extremely challenging.
- Some women must continue to take medications for years. Grueling weeks of chemo, radiation, and possibly surgery may be in the past, but many women need to take medications for months or years after treatment is done. These drugs are designed to keep the breast cancer from coming back -- but they can have side effects that survivors must deal with daily.
- Many survivors must learn to cope with the fear of recurrence. Hearing the words “cancer-free” doesn’t always put one’s mind at ease. Once someone has had cancer, they will likely deal with questions about whether it will come back — and this is a difficult emotional and mental obstacle for many patients. They will also need to be diligent about recommended follow-up visits and tests.
- They may look at life differently — and therefore seem like a different person. A cancer diagnosis has the power to change anyone. After breast cancer treatment has ended, many women find that they look at many things differently, such as family, work, and social commitments. They may decide to say “no” to things that are less important, or their priorities may change. Understand that this is part of the recovery process — and do your best to be compassionate and understanding about these changes.
- Many women will find that clothing doesn’t fit as it should. Breast cancer survivors who’ve undergone a partial or full mastectomy procedure often find regular women’s clothing ill-fitting in their chest area. Some women may get inserts to fit into clothing, but they still must look for necklines that won’t show their cutlets. An option for many survivors who’ve undergone a mastectomy is breast reconstruction surgery.
If you or someone you love has been affected by breast cancer, we encourage you to look for support groups and resources to help you cope.
Reconstruction of breasts that have been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available for women today. If you or a someone you know is affected by breast cancer, download The basics of breast reconstruction e-book for free, to learn how breast reconstruction surgery can help you feel whole again.
Request a consultation with Monarch Plastic Surgery, or call us today at (913) 663-3838 for our Lansing, Leawood, and Lee’s Summit offices, or (816) 436-3262 for our North Kansas City location to learn more about your options for breast reconstruction and cosmetic surgery.
Photo credit: Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com