Women urged to reclaim their life after breast cancer
With October designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness month, one expert offers breast cancer survivors some guidance on what they can do to reclaim and maintain their health.
Karen Syrjala, director of biobehavioral sciences and co-director of the survivorship program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, touches upon both the lingering physical and emotional concerns prompted by a battle with cancer.
First, cancer survivors should summarize their prior treatment for their primary care physician, and enlist the doctor in an effort to monitor the long-term impact that radiation, chemotherapy and other aggressive interventions can have down the road, Syrjala advised.
Fear of cancer recurrence should be tackled head on, she said, by getting a firm understanding of one’s particular risk and seeking out counseling to help manage concerns.
Regular exercise and eating well also top Syrjala’s “to-do” list, as part of an effort to embark on lifestyle changes that enhance the chances for long-term survival. She also promotes weight management, particularly as a response to certain cancer medications such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, which can cause women to put on pounds.
Not smoking, having no more than one alcoholic drink a day, using sunscreen and getting enough vitamin D will also help with long-term survival, she added.
And for women who struggle with the ongoing fatigue or memory and concentration issues (sometimes referred to as “chemobrain”) following treatment, Syrjala urges them to seek help rather than suffer in silence.
Lastly, she encourages women to connect with other breast cancer survivors, while looking into the many community and online resources now available to help patients move on with their lives.
For more on breast cancer survival, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.