Living Well With Breast Cancer

After the intensity of a breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, life goes on—with a different rhythm and new challenges.

Health Monitor Staff
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New coping strategies can help ease the stress of ongoing breast cancer treatment. Give your treatment the best chance to work, by following these tips.

Eating well during cancer therapy isn't always easy. Some days you may feel nauseated or so tired that you have no appetite. But it's important to take in enough calories to maintain your weight, and enough protein to restore tissues damaged by treatments. In addition, eating well will equip you to cope with side effects and fight off infection.

Try to:

  • Eat when you have more of an appetite, maybe in the morning
  • Have smaller, more-frequent meals
  • Choose foods that are packed with protein and other nutrients when you can eat, or try a commercial protein drink
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially on days you don't feel like eating
  • Don't worry when you can't eat at all, but let your doctor know if your appetite doesn't improve within a couple of days

Your body's been through a lot, but lying around and being inactive can make you sore and stiff. So even during those early days of treatment, try to keep moving with little stretches and short walks.

Numerous studies show that, as you recover from the effects of therapy, moderate exercise can help by countering fatigue, restoring flexibility and strength in the affected arm and shoulder, and countering swelling due to lymph node removal surgery.

Always check with your doctor about when to begin an exercise program and how much to do.

De-stressing techniques
Breast cancer also has emotional side effects. You see your illness disrupting your life and, of course, you worry about the future. Distract yourself by doing something you enjoy, such as watching a comedy or listening to music. Also helpful are:

  • Exercises that involve deep breathing, muscle relaxation or visualization
  • Physical therapy, including evaluation before and after surgery; it's a covered service for breast cancer patients
  • Therapeutic massage to melt away tension, reduce swelling and reduce post-mastectomy pain
  • Yoga to help reduce stress by emphasizing stretching, breathing and relaxation. It can help improve your mind's ability to focus on positive healing thoughts‚ and away from feelings of pain or anxiety.
October 2010