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What Happens After Treatment

Posted 5/9/2014

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  As many of you know, this is a topic very near and dear to both my personal and professional hearts. When I completed adjuvant breast cancer therapy for the first time in 1993, there was very little information about what came next. Since I had spent the previous fourteen years working with women who had breast cancer, I had many guides and experiences to remember and follow. Even so, I was pounded by the physical changes and emotional challenges.

  I was determined then to write a guide for other women who didn't have the benefit of my experience. Here is the shameless plug: If you haven't read my book, After Breast Cancer: A Commonsense Guide to Life After Treatment, you will likely find it helpful. There have been two editions, and the newer one has the pink cover (no, I definitely didn't choose it).

  By the time I completed adjuvant therapy for the second time in 1995, there were many more resources available. By very best resources continued to be, and still are, the women who surround and fill my days. I am grateful to you all.

  This is an interview from Cancer Net with Lidia Schapira, MD who is a lovely woman and a skilled oncologist at MGH. Here is the start and then a link:

Expert Q&A: What Comes Next After Finishing Treatment

As people complete their cancer treatment, they may experience a range of emotions, from relief that treatment is over to apprehension about the future. In some ways, this transition is one of the least understood aspects of the cancer experience. Here, Cancer.Net talks with Lidia Schapira, MD, about coping with the end of active cancer treatment.

Q: What are some immediate medical concerns of patients once they've finished active treatment?
A: Typically, there is a surge in anxiety and worry over the possibility that the cancer will return once active treatment is completed. Often, people feel they are not doing enough to actively fight the cancer. Another common problem is that some physical and psychological changes don't disappear with the last treatment and seem to last for months or years after treatment ends. A few examples of such symptoms are fatigue, lack of stamina, difficulty focusing, changes in skin texture, orneuropathic (nerve) changes in fingers and toes. People often want to know what signs to look for to detect a cancer recurrence (return) as early as possible and to recognize the long-term side effects of treatment [4]. For example, a person who received a medication that may affect his or her bone density needs to know how his or her bones will be monitored and what treatments are available.
Q: What are some initial psychological concerns of patients once they stop active treatment?
A: These include worries about cancer recurrence, one's identity and future, and dying young or leaving things undone. Some patients may also suffer from poor body image or low self-esteem because of the treatments they received; they often need help to learn to accept their new body.


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