5 Steps to a Better Breast Cancer Outcome

Health Monitor Staff
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Stress-reducing strategies can help. Find time for activities you enjoy, such as watching comedies (laughter's good!) or listening to music. Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualization. Consider learning biofeedback, which helps you monitor body functions (breathing, heart rate, blood pressure) and then alter them through relaxation or imagery.

Physical therapy, including evaluation before and after surgery, is a covered service for breast cancer patients. Therapeutic massage can melt away tension and reduce post-mastectomy pain and swelling. Yoga also can be useful. It emphasizes gentle stretching, breathing and relaxation, and it can help you reduce stress by focusing on positive, healing thoughts.

Stay connected to build relationships

When your emotions are in turmoil, it can be an enormous relief to talk to someone about what you're going through. Making that connection—whether with a friend, spiritual counselor or support group—can really improve your quality of life.

You can find support groups at your hospital or through advocacy organizations. Some of these, such as the American Cancer Society and other resources, have programs pairing women with cancer survivors who offer valuable support.

From time to time, take a few minutes to look forward to your life after cancer. For some people, that may simply mean a return to normalcy. For others, it may mean a deeper, fuller life, with important, new relationships forged during your journey.

Work toward enjoying intimate moments again

Changes in your body due to surgery and follow-up treatment may affect your enjoyment of sexual intimacy. Emotionally, you may be worried about how your partner will react to the "new" you, especially if you had a mastectomy without reconstruction or lost your hair for a while. Physically, you may also be dealing with fatigue, nausea and other romance killers.

Be open with your partner about your anxieties. Remedies are available for many treatment-induced symptoms: You could try a water-based lubricant, for example, if you're struggling with vaginal dryness.

Finally, explore ways to be intimate that don't involve intercourse. And don't feel guilty if you just don't feel like having sex at certain points in your treatment.

May 2013