The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Managing Side Effects and Supportive Care

Supportive care is all the care given to improve the quality of life for people with breast cancer (or any serious health condition).

Symptom management (also called palliative care) is part of supportive care. Symptom management aims to prevent or relieve the side effects of breast cancer and its treatment (such as pain or nausea). It’s an extra layer of care given along with treatment for the cancer.

Supportive care also includes taking care of your emotional, social, spiritual and practical needs (such as child care or elder care).

Supportive care begins at diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and beyond. It’s a vital part of care for people with all stages of breast cancer.

This page has information on supportive care for people with early or locally advanced breast cancer.

Learn about pain management and other supportive care for people with metastatic breast cancer.

Supportive care for people with early or locally advanced breast cancer

You can find information on many supportive care topics including:

The emotional impact of diagnosis and treatment

After a breast cancer diagnosis, you may feel a wide range of emotions including shock, fear, denial, sadness and anger. It’s common to feel depressed and anxious [218].

Taking care of your emotional well-being during this time is as important as tending to the physical side effects of treatment.

Talk with your health care provider or patient navigator about how you’re coping. They can help you find ways to improve your emotional well-being. Or they can help you find a counselor or support group.

Learn more about:

Social support for people diagnosed with breast cancer

Social support is the emotional support, practical help and other benefits you get from your family, friends and other loved ones. 

You may also get social support from your community including your church, synagogue or other religious organizations.

Many people can expand and strengthen their social support systems by joining a breast cancer support group.

Social support can improve your emotional health. Breast cancer survivors who have a lot of social support tend to cope better than survivors with little support [219-220].

Learn more about social support and support groups.

Social support for family, friends and other loved ones

As with any major illness, breast cancer affects spouses and partners, family members and other loved ones. They may feel many of the same emotions as the person diagnosed: shock, sadness, fear, anger and denial.

Although they can be strong sources of support throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery, loved ones (especially spouses, partners and children) may also need social support.

Learn more about social support for family, friends and other loved ones.

Find more information for family and friends, including a list of resources.

 SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES 

  • If you or a loved one needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). All calls are answered by a trained specialist or oncology social worker in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at helpline@komen.org
  • We offer an online support community through our closed Facebook Group – Komen Breast Cancer group. The Facebook group provides a place where those with a connection to breast cancer can discuss each other’s experiences and build strong relationships to provide support to each other. Visit Facebook and search for “Komen Breast Cancer group” to request to join the closed group.
  • Komen Affiliates offer breast health education and some fund breast cancer programs through local community organizations. Your local Affiliate may also help you find breast cancer resources in your area. Find your local Affiliate.
  • Our Family and Friends section has detailed information and resources for loved ones. 
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

 

Short-term side effects

All breast cancer treatments have some short-term physical side effects. However, everyone is different. With any treatment, your side effects may differ from someone else’s.

The good news is most side effects can be managed and many can be prevented. Even so, it’s normal to worry. 

Before any treatment begins, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and ways to deal with them.

Learn about possible short-term side effects including (in alphabetical order):

Learn about possible short-term side effects of different treatments:

Talk with your health care providers

Once treatment begins, tell your providers about any side effects you have. 

The only way your providers can help you manage side effects is if they know about them. So, be honest and tell your providers what you are going through.

Together, you can discuss ways to manage your symptoms. It may be helpful to keep a list of your symptoms to take with you to provider visits.

Completing treatment

Relieving symptoms helps you feel better and may help you complete treatment. 

Breast cancer treatment is most effective when all parts of the treatment plan are completed.

Learn more about the importance of following your breast cancer treatment plan

Late effects of treatment

Once breast cancer treatment ends, most of the physical side effects of treatment go away.

However, some side effects may be long-term. Some may occur months or even years after treatment ends.

These late effects of treatment vary from person to person, so your experience may be different from others.

Learn more about possible late effects of breast cancer treatment.

Managing pain

Relieving pain is important throughout your breast cancer care.

Let your health care provider know about any pain or discomfort you have.

The goal of pain management is to give the most pain relief with the least amount of therapy (to limit side effects).

For most people, pain from breast cancer treatment is temporary and goes away after treatment ends. Some people, however, can have pain for longer periods of time.

Learn more about managing pain related to breast cancer treatment.

Palliative care specialists

Palliative care and pain specialists (physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses) have special training in pain management and symptom management.

Sometimes a palliative care specialist is part of your treatment team. If not, be sure to ask your oncologist for a referral to a specialist if:

  • Your pain is not controlled
  • You have side effects from the pain medications
  • You would like to discuss more options to manage your pain

Learn more about palliative care specialists and early breast cancer treatment.

Managing practical needs

Throughout breast cancer treatment, you may face many practical challenges.

You must deal with financial issues as well as practical needs such as help with child care or perhaps getting groceries on days when you don’t feel well.

Financial issues

After a breast cancer diagnosis, dealing with insurance and financial issues can feel overwhelming.

Whether you need help going through your insurance plan or financial assistance for prescription drug costs and other expenses, there are resources to help.

Learn more about:

Travel, lodging child care and elder care

Getting to your breast cancer treatments can be hard, especially if you don’t live near the hospital or medical center.

If you need a ride to and from treatment or help with child care or elder care, there may be resources available. Family and friends often want to help, but do not know how. These may be great ways for them to get involved. 

It’s OK to ask for help.

Some organizations offer programs to help with transportation or costs related to transportation, child care and elder care. Others offer lodging if you need a place to stay overnight during treatment.

Learn more about:

Find information for family and friends and a brochure for helpful tips for family and friends.

 

Komen Treatment Assistance Program 

Susan G. Komen® offers the Komen Treatment Assistance Program to help eligible, underserved breast cancer patients in treatment. To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636).

 

 

TOOLS & RESOURCES

Need Help or More Information?

1-877 GO KOMEN
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