Life after breast cancer: A guide to mental and physical health

Family and friends play a huge role in helping survivors

breast-cancer-reuters Representational image | Reuters

Research shows one in 28 women in India will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Over the last two to three decades, significant advances in treatment have enabled patients to approach diagnosis and treatment with a more positive outlook. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

THE WEEK speaks to Dr Kunal Jobanputra, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Mumbai Oncocare Center on breast cancer awareness.


What life changes do breast cancer survivors experience post treatment?

They experience a drastic change in their lives. Both phases mark a new beginning filled with hope, resilience, strength, and courage. While medical and healthcare professionals outline the journey from diagnosis to treatment, the journey after treatment remains unclear. Unique physical and emotional challenges require support and understanding for recovery, self-discovery, and empowerment.

What role can family members and friends play?

Support from immediate family and friends help survivors navigate the grueling days during and after treatment, rebuilding their confidence and self-esteem. They can help improve post-treatment health and wellness outcomes. They can help the survivor join a breast cancer support group to connect with those who understand and can walk this journey with you. Seeking professional help from a licensed therapist proficient in addressing survivors' emotional and psychological needs is essential.

What are some of the coping strategies that can work?

Create a range of activities that promote emotional and physical well-being, from meditation and music to journaling and crafting, or taking up a new hobby. Practicing yoga, and learning relaxation techniques to process your thoughts and emotions also works for some.

What lifestyle changes work best?

Reset your lifestyle choices for mind, body, and soul with a well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, and avoiding alcohol and smoking. A restful night's sleep will ensure overall health, energy, and fitness. Accept the physical changes in yourself that can vary from hair loss to weight gain and digestive issues. Re-establishing normalcy requires time.

How important are follow ups with the doctor?

Survivors must work with their doctors, healthcare providers, and care teams to develop a comprehensive plan for managing the various post-treatment effects and ensuring their overall well-being. Fatigue may persist after treatment, but working with your doctor to manage and cope with it through lifestyle alterations, breathing exercises, and meditation is essential. Survivors may experience pain after treatment. Discuss pain levels with your doctor to determine appropriate pain management options. Survivors should consult their doctors before changing their treatment plans. Keeping appointments, adhering to medication, monitoring for new symptoms, and maintaining notes should guide survivors on their path to health.

Why is support so essential to well-being?

It is important to remember that survivors have walked a challenging path. Seeking support is not a sign of weakness but immense strength and courage. Discussing the fight against breast cancer and sharing experiences can help others going through the same journey. Embracing the situation and emerging with stronger physical and mental health is vital for healing.


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