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Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.

Breast cancer often uses different combinations of treatment.
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Recovering from breast cancer surgery

Most women with breast cancer have an operation as part of their treatment. Getting back to normal after surgery can take time. It is important to take things slowly and give yourself time to recover. During this time, avoid lifting things (for example, children or heavy shopping bags) and heavy housework. You may also be advised not to drive.

Some other treatments, particularly radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can make you very tired. You may need to take a break from some of your normal activities for a while. Do not be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends.

Some younger women have to cope with early menopause brought on by treatment for cancer. Symptoms can include hot flushes, vaginal dryness and loss of sexual desire. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you have and they will be able to help.

Other outcomes might include a breast prosthesis, which is an artificial breast worn inside your bra to replace the breast that has been removed, and a breast reconstruction (if you did not have immediate breast reconstruction carried out at the time of the surgery).

Breast cancer treatments can also cause new problems such as pain and stiffness in your arms and shoulder after the surgery, and a build-up of excess lymph fluid which causes swelling (called lymphoedema).

Talk to your doctor if you experience these, or any other long-term effects of treatment.

Follow-up after treatment

After your treatment has finished, you will be invited for regular check-ups, usually every 3 months for the first year.

If you have had early breast cancer, your healthcare team will agree a care plan with you after your treatment has finished. This plan contains the details of your follow-up. You will receive a copy of the plan, which will also be sent to your doctor.

During the check-up, your doctor will examine you and may do blood tests or X-rays to see how your cancer is responding to treatment. You should also be offered a mammogram every year for the first 5 years after your treatment.

Long-term complications

Your treatment for breast cancer may cause new problems:

  • Pain and stiffness in your arm and shoulder on the affected side, may occur after surgery and the skin in these areas may be tight.
  • Lymphoedema is a build-up of excess lymph fluid which causes swelling. This may happen if surgery or radiotherapy causes damage to the lymphatic drainage system in the armpit.

Talk to your healthcare team if you experience these or any other long-term effects of treatment.

Last reviewed: September 2016

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