Quality of Life After Breast Cancer Treatment
Whether you are newly diagnosed, are still in active treatment or completed treatment years ago, breast cancer, breast cancer can affect how you feel inside and out.
You have to cope with the emotional strain of the diagnosis and the challenges of treatment, as well as the stresses of daily life.
Even though your diagnosis may be similar to another person’s, the way breast cancer impacts your life is unique.
How we’re helping
Last year, the Komen Treatment Assistance Program, provided assistance to more than 4,100 individuals and their families.
What is quality of life?
“Quality of life” describes your overall well-being, including:
- Mental and physical health
- Ability to perform daily roles
- Sexual function
- Pain, fatigue and other side effects of treatment or symptoms of the breast cancer
Non-health issues (such as financial concerns) are also part of quality of life.
Managing side effects and other issues that reduce your quality of life is an important part of breast cancer care.
Quality of life after treatment
Most people report a good quality of life after they complete breast cancer treatment [8-10]. However, you may have some late effects of treatment.
You may have some long-term side effects or new side effects may occur months or even years after treatment ends. These may include hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, fatigue, chronic breast pain, lymphedema and a loss of sex drive.
It can be hard to plan for or cope with these late effects since they vary from person to person.
However, there are things you can do to ease some symptoms.
Learn about (in alphabetical order):
- Bone health problems
- Changes in the look and feel of the breast after lumpectomy
- Changes in the look and feel of the breast after radiation therapy
- Changes in the look and feel of the breast after reconstruction
- Cognitive function (problems with memory and concentration)
- Early menopause
- Emotional distress and depression
- Fatigue or insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- Fear of breast cancer recurrence
- Financial and insurance issues
- Joint and muscle pain
- Menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes and vaginal symptoms)
- Numbness (neuropathy)
- Relationships with spouses, partners, other family members and friends
- Sexuality and intimacy issues
- Social support
- Spirituality (prayer, mindfulness meditation)
- Weight gain
Improving quality of life for breast cancer survivors
Researchers are looking at ways people who have had breast cancer can improve quality of life. For example, exercise may improve mood, fatigue and social well-being [11-14].
Social support may also improve quality of life for people who have had breast cancer [15-16].
Positive effects on quality of life
Although breast cancer often has a negative impact on quality of life, it may also trigger a positive change in your outlook .
You may have a stronger sense of spirituality or faith and a more hopeful view that increases pleasure in life . You may meet and bond with people you might not have met otherwise. And, you may make positive changes in your life that you might not have made without a breast cancer diagnosis. Some people may even call this the “silver lining” of having breast cancer.
If you’ve had breast cancer, you’re in a unique position to help others.
After treatment ends, there are many ways you can be a part of the breast cancer cause through research, community work or advocacy efforts.
Whether you enroll in a research study, serve as an advisor, or volunteer for an advocacy group, you can make a difference.
Learn more about getting involved in these efforts.