Each year, over 250,000 women and nearly 2,500 men are diagnosed with breast cancer, according to data from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90 percent, which drops to 83 percent after ten years. If the cancer is localized only in the breast, the five-year survival rate jumps to 99 percent. Sixty-one percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in this stage. Three million women in the United States currently live with breast cancer.
These high survival rates illustrate that you can continue to lead a healthy, productive life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Your attitude and the steps you take can have a big impact on how well you recover and what the quality of your life will be. Here are four tips on how to manage dealing with breast cancer in order to lead a fuller, healthier, more productive lifestyle.
Create a Survivorship Care Plan
Taking a proactive approach to recovery by creating a survivorship care plan is one of the keys to effectively managing breast cancer, advises the American Cancer Institute. This is a document that summarizes the details of your cancer treatment and what type of follow-up your health care provider recommends. Having this type of written plan can help you stay focused on taking the steps you need to recover.
You and your health care provider should start developing your plan early in the treatment process so that you have more options in how to approach your treatment and recovery. As understanding of breast cancer advances, more patients are experiencing success with alternatives to traditional surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Talk to your health care provider about all your options as you’re developing your survivorship care plan.
Stay Active and Eat Healthy
Staying active is important both to maintain a positive attitude and to maintain your health during and after breast cancer treatment. Avoid gaining weight during treatment by keeping up with an exercise plan supported by a healthy diet. Exercise can help you maintain cardiovascular and muscular fitness and combat fatigue and depression. The American Heart Association recommends that adults should get in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five times a week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous activity at least three times a week, plus moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week. If you’re trying to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, you should aim for at least 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three or four times per week.
An active lifestyle needs to stay supported by a healthy diet. Aim for a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry. Minimize intake of refined grains, red meat, fried foods, high-fat dairy products and desserts.
Take Care of Your Emotional and Spiritual Health
It’s also vital to maintain your psychological and spiritual well-being. Engaging in emotionally and spiritually uplifting activities such as prayer, church, meditation, art and activities with family and friends can help you deal with the physical as well as the psychological effects of breast cancer and treatment. Consider getting involved with a local community or online network of cancer survivors for support.
Part of the emotional aftermath of breast cancer can be dealing with changes to your physical appearance caused by surgery or chemotherapy. The American Cancer society offers resources to help deal with these issues, including breast forms, mastectomy bras and swimwear, wigs, turbans and hats.
Develop a Financial Plan
Breast cancer treatment can be a financial burden if you’re not prepared for it. Some women assume their insurance will cover their entire treatment without actually understanding what their policy covers, which can cause bankruptcy in some cases, cautions health care writer Andrea King Collier. Make sure you thoroughly understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover, including out-of-pocket expenses. Talk to your health care provider about less expensive options, and plan your budget before scheduling expensive treatments.
If you’ve suffered permanent hair loss due to taking Taxotere during chemotherapy, you may be able to receive financial compensation that can offset the cost of treatment. Consult a law firm specializing in Taxotere suits to explore your options.