Fight like a girl!

Fight like a girl!

Fight like a girl!

It is very essential for women to get back to their normal routine, post breast cancer treatment, advises Dr Sandeep Jain.

Preeti, a 35-year-old IT professional and mother of two, a recent survivor of breast cancer is now resuming back to normalcy after her treatment. According to her, breast cancer is one of the worst forms of cancer that affects women.

“Disfiguring breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss, radiation and a permanent damage to married life… these are the imageries that rush to a person’s mind after being diagnosed for breast cancer.

However, all is well in her case and will be in other women’s case if they follow the 5 must do things to put their lives back to normalcy after breast cancer treatment. 

Regular life

A woman’s outlook and the whole way of life might have changed temporarily for that period of treatment; many would have taken life changing decisions. However, some patients get back to their normalcy very soon and they do it quite successfully without much help. But, commonly many patients take time to come out of this. They pay a lot of attention to the aches and pains in spite of doctor telling that they have no signs of cancer now. Thus, realize that it’s time to get back to normalcy and one can resume life as before. Take on responsibilities and move ahead.

Relapse watch

Cancer treatment can have side effects like any other treatment. However, most of these will last for a few weeks to months. At first, one should see all the doctors of treatment team possibly every 4 to 6 months. The longer the patients have been free of cancer, the less often the appointments are needed. If the patient is advised of hormonal therapy like tamoxifen, one should be watchful for abnormal vaginal bleeding and needs to have yearly pelvic exams. Although this is usually caused by a non-cancerous condition, sometimes sonography may be required. If the patient is taking medicines called “aromatase inhibitors” like letrozole or anastrozole, there may be a risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Doctor may consider testing of bone density and advice of calcium pills to strengthen bones as well.

Regular follow-ups

After treatment is completed, it is very important to go to all scheduled follow-up visits. It is quite tempting to avoid the visits to the treating doctor and to undergo uncomfortable tests required in follow-up.

By the time the treatment is completed, patient feels tired of being a cancer patient and wants to forget about this part of life and move on. It is understandable to want to avoid tests, doctors, and hospitals as it reminds her of cancer, but it is essential to encounter the possibility that cancer may come back (recurrence).

Though it is a natural impulse, it is not a wise choice. It is extremely essential to have visits even after 5 years, since a recurrence, if detected early, may be liable to curative treatment again. During these visits, doctors will ask questions about symptoms, examine you and advice relevant tests. Other tests such as tumor marker studies such as CA-15-3, blood tests of liver and kidney function, and chest x-rays may sometimes be required.
If the patient had breast-conserving surgery it is extremely important to have mammograms every year.

Support group

When their treatment is done, some people feel that they are no longer fighting their cancer. However, some feel that they are done with their lives. Such people should join support groups, first thing, to share their experiences and also help others to come out of their downfall. With such groups, the patient can share their feelings and day-to-day problems with the other cancer survivors too.

Don’t handicap yourself!

It is also important for you to make it clear to your family to not treat you like a handicap or a patient. In most patients, the activities of daily living and household work can be safely resumed after the treatment. It not only engages your mind, but also adds physical activity to the routine in addition to the exercises prescribed by your doctor.

When treatment ends, people begin a new chapter in their lives, one that can bring hope and happiness. It is important to bear in mind that a cancer survivor is one of nearly 11 million people alive today who survive cancer. With such a positive outlook to life, women like Preeti can get out of the shackles of their cancerous past and live a healthy life they deserve.

(The writer is a radiation oncologist)