Help in Managing Lingering Effects of Cancer Treatment

Posted on Sep 16, 2015

?????????The effects of cancer treatment can linger for months or years. It’s common to wonder how your body should feel during this time and to worry about signs that cancer is coming back.

“It’s not so much ‘getting back to normal’ as it is finding out what’s normal for you now,” says Risa Kagan, M.D., FACOG; Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation gynecologist. “Your new normal may include making changes in the way you eat, the things you do and your sources of support.”

These tips from the National Cancer Institute can help with the most common challenges for cancer survivors:

Fatigue — Among the most common complaints during the first year of recovery

  • Plan your day. Be active at the time of day when you feel most alert and energetic.
  • Save your energy by changing how you do things. For example, sit on a stool while you cook or wash dishes.
  • Take short naps or rest breaks between activities.

Memory and concentration changes — One in four people with cancer reports memory and attention problems after chemotherapy, sometimes called “chemobrain.”

  • Jot it down. You can write down each task, how long it will take, and where you need to go in a notebook or pocket calendar. Plan your whole day. Keep it simple, and be realistic about how much you can do in a day.
  • Set up reminders. Put small signs around the house to remind you of things to do, such as taking out the trash or locking the door.
  • Group long numbers into chunks. For example, the phone number 812-5846 can be repeated as “eight-twelve, fifty-eight, forty-six.”

Menopause symptoms — Even though your doctor may have discussed early menopause with you, give yourself permission to mourn the loss of your fertility.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Through exercise and diet, try to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise most days of the week, doing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activities. Eat wisely. A balanced diet will provide most of the nutrients and calories your body needs to stay healthy.
  • If you are having hot flashes, try to write down when they happen and what may cause them. This may help you find out what to avoid.

Bone, joint, muscle aches — Your doctor can help find the source of your pain and get relief.

  • Use numbers. Talk about how strong the pain feels on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you could have.
  • Describe what the pain feels like. Is it sharp, dull, throbbing, steady?
  • Point out the exact places it hurts, either on your body or on a drawing. Note whether the pain stays in one place or whether it moves outward from the spot.

Changes in appearance from breast surgery — Your body changes may trouble you. Feelings of anger and grief are natural.

  • Mourn your losses. They are real, and you have a right to grieve.
  • Try to focus on the ways that coping with cancer has made you stronger, wiser, and more realistic.
  • If you choose to wear a breast form (prosthesis), make sure it fits you well. Your health insurance plan may pay for it.

For more resources on breast cancer care and treatment, attend Sutter Health’s free events in Oakland and Castro Valley.

Thriving in Survivorship Cancer Symposium

With a panel of cancer experts, this workshop will focus on the importance of creating a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and exercise to help reduce the risk of recurrence and enhance well-being. The psychosocial impact of cancer and the distress it can create, even after treatment, will be discussed along with strategies on how to manage distress.

Oct. 14, 6-8 p.m.
Castro Valley Care Center (next to Eden), 2nd Floor Conference Center
20101 Lake Chabot Road
Castro Valley, CA 94546

To register for this free event, call The Cancer Support Community, 925-933-0107.

6th Annual Breast Cancer Symposium

Managing Lingering Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 5-8 p.m.

Samuel Merritt University, Bechtel Hall

400 Hawthorne Avenue, Oakland

Please call 510-204-5656 to reserve your seat at this free presentation.

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