Here at Cancer Pro, we are proud to be supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in this edition of our weekly blog, we are going to explore what the ‘Quality of Life’ means after breast cancer treatment and some of the challenges that lay ahead.
But, before we do, let’s remind ourselves of the impact breast cancer has here in Malaysia.
Currently, 1 in 19 Malaysian women will be affected by Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among females and accounts for 34% of all cancers amongst females here in Malaysia, and, these numbers continue to grow, with the overall lifetime risk being 1 in 30. Almost 50% of breast cancer sufferers in Malaysia are under the age of 50.
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However, early detection significantly improves breast cancer survival, reducing the risk of dying of breast cancer by 40%, so get checked now.
Understanding The ‘Quality of Life’ After Breast Cancer Treatment
Whether you are newly diagnosed, a long-term survivor or still undergoing treatment, breast cancer can affect the way you feel. Every day you have to cope with the emotional strain of the diagnosis along with the challenges of treatment, as well as managing the stresses of daily life.
What is ‘quality of life’?
By “Quality of life” we mean your overall well-being and it can cover several aspects, including
- Your mental and physical health
- Your ability to perform daily roles
- Your sexual function
- The pain, fatigue and other side effects of treatment or symptoms of breast cancer
Along with this, there are non-health issues (such as financial concerns) that are also part of the quality of life. Managing any side effects and other issues that reduce your quality of life are also an important part of your long-term breast cancer care.
‘Quality of life’ after treatment
While the majority of breast cancer survivors report a good quality of life, you may continue to suffer some side effects from treatment, and these might include hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, fatigue, chronic breast pain, fear of recurrence, lymphedema and a loss of sex drive. It can be hard to plan for or cope with these side effects since they vary from person to person.
However, there are several things you can do to help ease the symptoms of these side effects and it’s worth taking the time to learn about some of the more common issues such as.
Cognitive function problems with memory and concentration.
Stress, anxiety and depression can affect cognitive function. Symptoms may first appear with the stress related to diagnosis and treatment and can become worse after chemotherapy or any other treatment begins. Medications used to treat the side effects of chemotherapy can also cause these problems.
Tips to help improve cognitive function
- Try planning your day to do the things that need the most thinking when you feel your best.
- Try to get extra rest at night, and limit any naps during the day to less than one hour.
- Daily exercise, ask your health care provider what light exercise might be right for you.
Fear of cancer recurrence
When treatment for breast cancer ends, many people are afraid they still have cancer or that cancer will come back. These fears are quite normal, but there are several healthy ways to help cope with the stress caused by these fears.
For example, mindfulness meditation may help. While some people find talking to a counsellor or joining a support group can be helpful. Your health care provider may be able to help you find a counsellor or support group.
Sexuality and intimacy
If you are struggling with issues affecting your sexuality, remember you’re not alone, intimacy can be difficult for most women after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Often you may feel your body has betrayed you. And, after months of treatment, you could feel detached or disconnected from the pleasure your body once gave you.
Body image issues may also affect how you view sex, as well as your sexuality, anxiety and depression, can also impact your sexuality.
Problems that affect sexuality and intimacy can increase over time, so it’s important to address them. Talk with your healthcare provider, a mental health care provider or a counsellor, as these providers can offer treatment and support services, and some providers specialize in the treatment of sexual problems for cancer survivors.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding Cancer Pro and Breast Cancer, please visit www.cancer-pro.com