There are more breast cancer treatment options available today than ever before. While that’s great news for your chances of successful treatment, going through treatment can be tough, to say the least.
You may be recovering from surgery or experiencing troubling treatment side effects. Perhaps you are dealing with the challenges of balancing treatment with family and work obligations, or trying to keep a brave face for your loved ones while you’re not feeling very well. You are not alone.
Whatever your treatment plan includes, and wherever you are in the process, we are here for you with information and support to help you get through this challenging time in your life. Here are some resources for those of you who are actively being treated for breast cancer right now.
Managing treatment side effects
As you enter each phase of your treatment plan, it can be helpful to know what to expect so you can plan to prevent or manage treatment side effects. If you’re already experiencing side effects from treatment, you can find information on ways to help manage them below. Always tell your doctors about any troubling side effects you are experiencing so you can treat them or adjust your treatment plan as soon as possible.
Pain is a common side effect of certain breast cancer treatments. Depending on the treatment you have, the type and severity of pain will vary. For example, you may experience pain during recovery from surgery in the parts of the body where surgery was performed, while certain hormonal therapies called aromatase inhibitors are known to cause joint pain.
Learn more about pain as a treatment side effect and ways to manage it.
Lymphedema can happen after breast cancer surgery or radiation therapy, especially if you have lymph nodes removed. Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of fluid called lymph that can cause swelling, usually in the arm and hand in people who have been treated for breast cancer.
Learn more about lymphedema, including ways to reduce your risk and treatment options.
Lymphedema 101Apr. 30, 2021
Hair loss is one of the most well-known side effects of chemotherapy, which can be distressing for many people. Other breast cancer treatments, such as hormonal therapy, can cause some hair loss, as well. Preparing for hair loss and knowing your options for managing it can help you feel less stressed about this treatment side effect.
Learn more at Hair Loss.
Scalp Cooling: How It Works to Preserve HairMar. 26, 2021
Fatigue is the most common side effect of breast cancer treatment, affecting as many as nine out of 10 people. If treatment is making you feel tired all the time and it doesn’t get better with rest, talk to your doctor, and learn about steps you can take to help manage this side effect.
Learn more at Fatigue.
Cancer-Related Fatigue: What It Is and How to Manage ItJul. 6, 2019
Neuropathy is a potential side effect of some chemotherapy medicines that causes pain, numbness, or discomfort resulting from damage to the nerves. It usually begins in the toes and can expand to the legs, arms, and hands as treatment continues. Neuropathy can also be caused by surgery, radiation therapy, and also some targeted therapy medicines.
Learn more at Neuropathy.
Neuropathy: Causes and TreatmentsAug. 16, 2018
Gastrointestinal issues are commonly caused by chemotherapy and other medicines used to treat breast cancer. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent and manage these conditions. Learn more about how to manage:
Constipation — Breast Cancer Treatment Side EffectsApr. 13, 2019
Diarrhea — Breast Cancer Treatment Side EffectsJan. 9, 2020
Some breast cancer treatments can mimic the symptoms of menopause or cause treatment-induced menopause, which can be temporary or permanent depending on your age and other factors. Menopausal symptoms can include hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, and other effects.
Learn more at Menopause and Menopausal Symptoms.
Sexual Side Effects of Breast Cancer TreatmentSep. 17, 2020
White blood cells are an important part of your immune system that helps your body fight infection. Some breast cancer treatments can reduce the amount of white blood cells in your body to the point that you have an increased risk of infection. Doctors call this being immunocompromised.
Learn more at Low White Blood Cell Count.
Low White Blood Cell Counts and Infection RiskJun. 17, 2020
Learn about more breast cancer treatment side effects.
Adding complementary or holistic therapies to your breast cancer treatment plan can be helpful for managing side effects or protecting your mental and emotional health. There are a wide variety of complementary therapies you can talk to your doctor about trying while in treatment, such as acupuncture, medical cannabis, meditation, Reiki, or yoga.
Learn more at Complementary Therapy.
Acupuncture to Ease Breast Cancer Treatment Side EffectsSep. 17, 2020
What Is Mindfulness?May. 24, 2019
Reiki: What It Is and How It Helps People With CancerMar. 8, 2019
Considering a clinical trial
Clinical trials are scientific studies that carefully research new tests and treatments in people who volunteer. You might think that clinical trials are only an option for people for whom standard cancer treatments don’t work well. The truth is, joining a clinical trial can be a good option for many people being treated for breast cancer.
You can talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial may be a good option for you at any point in your treatment.
Learn more at Clinical Trials.
Paying for your care
Even if you have good health insurance coverage, the costs of breast cancer treatment can be a major source of stress and worry.
Besides the out-of-pocket costs for your medical care, you may have extra expenses for things like transportation and child care. And if you've taken time off from work and your income is lower, your living expenses can be difficult to cover.
Fortunately, there are resources available to help you. Learn more at Covering the Costs of Your Breast Cancer Care.
Breast cancer and your job
Balancing work with breast cancer treatment, deciding to tell your boss and co-workers, or making decisions about taking time off or retiring early can be an unforeseen challenge of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you have questions about how to navigate work-related issues during breast cancer treatment, we’re here to help.
Learn more at Workplace and Job Issues.
Managing your medical records
Because records of your medical information are kept by different doctors in different places, it’s a good idea to keep your own copies of your medical records that you can access whenever you need to.
Learn more about how to get and organize your medical records.
Your mental and emotional health
Breast cancer treatment primarily focuses on your physical health. But it’s important to protect your mental and emotional health as well during this difficult time in your life.
You’ve probably heard people on television and social media describe breast cancer treatment as a fight or battle, and people who’ve gone through treatment as survivors and warriors. It’s great if you feel strong and determined as you go through breast cancer treatment. But it’s also OK if you don’t. Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s perfectly valid to feel worried, scared, sad, or any variety of emotions during breast cancer treatment.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, you should talk to your doctor and consider speaking with a mental health professional. Together, you can discuss ways to protect your mental health, whether it’s with talk therapy, an antidepressant, or holistic approaches like meditation or yoga.
Learn more about managing anxiety and depression.