Life After Breast Cancer
UNDERSTANDING LIFE AFTER BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer seems ubiquitous. Most of us have yet to meet any person professionally or personally whose life has not been touched by breast cancer. These words are common: “I know someone who was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”
(21) Life after Breast Cancer
How can I overcome my pain?
For sexuality to occur, pain control is important. Living in constant chronic pain can negatively affect the quality of life. Activities of your daily living, as well as your overall mental, physical, and emotional well-being, are impacted.
(22) Life after Breast Cancer
“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, Love like you'll never be hurt, Sing like there's nobody listening, And live like it's heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey
What is menopause, and what can I expect? My vagina and vulva hurt and burn. What can I do?
In menopause, a woman does not have a menstrual cycle for 1 year. A woman may go through natural menopause, where her cycles stop spontaneously, usually around age of 51 years. Natural menopause is as a result of a variety of factors such as genetics, smoking, and age of first menstrual cycle.
(24) Life after Breast Cancer
What can I do since I have lost all my hair?
Some women spend many hours brushing, blow drying, styling, and coloring their hair, so it can be devastating when hair loss is a part of your cancer survivorship. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, by the age of 40, approximately 40% of women have begun to experience some form of hair loss.
(23) My appearance has changed. I don’t even look or feel like myself. What is the Look Good . . . Feel Better Program? How can I deal with my new body image?
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
– Dr. Wayne W Dyer
The Look Good . . . Feel Better Program is a free service provided so that women with cancer can learn new ways to restore body image and cope with the changes in appearance.
(25) Life after Breast Cancer
How can I manage my terrible hot flashes?
Even though many women are candidates for estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone therapies, these treatments may not be an option for those who have had breast cancer. Some breast cancer survivors may decline systemic hormonal use because these hormones may trigger the regrowth of a tumor or stimulate a preexisting cancer in the breast.
These other ways can help to minimize some of the adverse effects of hot flashes:
1. Dress so that the outermost layers can be removed when you get a hot flash. Cotton is quick drying; its wicking effect traps and removes moisture from your body. Special sleepwear has been developed for those with nighttime hot flashes (Wicking Menopause pajamas).
2. As soon as you feel a hot flash, drink an ice-cold glass of water or put a cold compress on your face. Misting bottles can help you sprits water. Running cold water on your wrists or immersing your feet in cold water can also provide relief.
3. Turn down the heat in the winter and raise the air-conditioning in the summer. It is easy for your partner to put on a sweater or sleep with a heavier blanket.
4. Use a room fan, or wave a hand-held fan. Fancy paper or fabric fans make beautiful accessories to any stylish outfit. Keep one in your purse and another in your car or office for easy access.
5. Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi may be helpful for troublesome hot flashes and are also helpful in decreasing stress and anxiety.
6. Research has shown that women who exercise regularly may have less difficulty with menopausal hot flashes. Start an exercise program today.
7. Avoid cigarette smoking.
8. Sleep near an open window or an air conditioning unit.
9. Change sleeping attire and bed linen to lighter fabrics. Menopausal pajamas can be special ordered online. Maybe even sleep nude!
10. Purchase a personal cooling pillow (www.chillow.com). It works by keeping your head cool.
11. Record the number and intensity of hot flashes each day. Show your diary to your clinician.
12. Avoid hot baths or showers in the 2 hours prior to going to bed.
13. Practice the paced respiration techniques described later here.
The way that you breathe has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flashes. When the paced respiration technique is used correctly, hot flashes can be eased by at least 50%.
Perform these two steps to do the paced respiration:
1. Make a conscious effort to remain calm. In a relaxed manner, take six to eight slow, deep breaths through your nose. Each breath in and out should take at least 1 minute.
2. During each inhalation, allow the air to slowly enter your body, filling your abdomen first, and then your lungs, filling your body with more and more air. If you place your hand on your belly, you can feel your abdomen expand and sense your chest cavity as it widens. Exhale through your nose or mouth just as slowly and evenly, feeling your chest and abdomen as they contract. Practice these paced respirations for at least 15 minutes for at least two times every day. In addition, this breathing exercise can be done any time day or night. It is very useful to do these breaths while waiting in the grocery store line, driving in traffic, or when you are in any type of stressful situation. Paced respirations may also be helpful in situations where in the past you have had a hot flash (e.g., being in a room that feels too warm). Paced respirations may also act to calm your mind and lessen distress and anxiety (adapted from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s patient educational materials).
Layers, definitely, and if it is cold outside stick your head out the window or go stand outside for a minute. Open up the freezer for a quick cool jolt of fresh air! I’ve also acquired a lovely little collection of fans and have found them very handy. Portable and practical, they are also quite a lot of fun and almost always conversation pieces. Not to mention fashion accessories.
The way that you breathe has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flashes.
What other techniques can I implement to help with my hot flashes?
A healthy diet is important for overall general health, fitness, and strength. Many women find some relief from menopausal hot flashes with some minor dietary changes and/or the addition of some basic vitamin and mineral supplements. Moderation is the key when making any changes to your food intake. Avoid certain triggers that may include caffeine, alcohol (including beer, wine, and liquor), and spicy foods. Consider adding some vitamin supplements such as vitamin B6 (200 or 250 mg daily) or Peridin C (two tablets three times a day). Begin with these over-the-counter medicines, and allow at least 4 to 6 weeks for them to work. If possible, add one supplement at a time so that you can determine whether it is working for you. Complementary medicine and alternative techniques or therapies use the disciplines of modern science and medicine and couple them with ancient philosophies from different cultures.
As a result, many techniques incorporate modern Western and traditional Eastern philosophies. Many strategies have gained popularity as they can help to ease suffering and promote healing or feelings of well-being. Many cancer survivors will use a variety of herbal supplements or other unconventional techniques to help maintain an improved quality of life or minimize troublesome side effects.
Some of the more common herbal or homeopathic preparations for menopausal women include isoflavones, black cohosh, chaste tree berry, ginseng, dong quai, evening primrose oil, wild yam, motherwort, red clover, linden flower, yarrow, green tea extract, and klimaktheel. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force on Hormone Therapy has examined the scientific evidence for soy, black cohosh, red clover, and Mexican progesterone yam cream for the treatment of menopausal hot flashes.
Unfortunately, these products did not reduce hot flashes by a clinically significant amount, and medical literature does not conclusively support their use. Still, many perimenopausal and menopausal women have claimed that these products are effective in managing their individual menopause symptoms. There is limited scientific evidence that many herbs that are listed here significantly diminish menopausal symptoms. Results vary.
The term “herbal” does not necessarily connote effective or risk free. In fact, some herbs may have potentially harmful side effects and may interact with chemotherapy and other prescribed medications. Always be cautious, and if you are considering using herbal therapy, check with your cancer specialist or clinician. Several websites discuss herbs, their medical indications, and possible interactions and effects (see Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, www.mskcc.org/aboutherbs ; National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, www.nccam.nih.gov ). Alternative medicine and relaxation techniques (e.g., foot reflexology, magnet therapy, meditation, yoga, and therapeutic massage) can minimize hot flashes, although success rates are variable. Their ability to decrease the severity or even prevent hot flashes lacks scientific randomized controlled studies that prove effective.
Many women report that acupuncture relieves hot flashes. Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese medical system in which very thin needles are painlessly and strategically placed into the skin. It is used to control chronic pain and heal a variety of other ailments. Acupuncture works by stimulating specific portions of the nervous system, relieving pain by causing signal transmitters and hormones in the brain to work in different ways.
Many local and national cancer institutions have excellent integrative medicine departments that specialize in herbal supplements as well as complementary and alternative medicine choices. Dr. Krychman, in association with the Healing Sanctuary, located in Southern California, has developed a menopausal and hot flash program with director and acupuncturist Pam Jacobson. Together they implement both Western and Eastern techniques with the shared goal of hot flash management. The program has been well received in Orange County among cancer patients and their treating healthcare providers.
For more information, visit the Healing Sanctuary at www.thehealingsanctuaryoc.com. Both Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have excellent resources available. For more information concerning the medical uses of acupuncture, consult the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at www.medicalacupuncture.org.
Many women report that acupuncture relieves hot flashes.
Acupuncture - A traditional Chinese practice of treating a health condition or medical state by inserting needles into the skin at specific points to unblock the flow of energy