Supportive care is all the care given to improve the quality of life for people with breast cancer (or any serious health condition).
Symptom management (also called palliative care) is part of supportive care. Symptom management aims to prevent or relieve the side effects of breast cancer and its treatment (such as pain or nausea). It's an extra layer of care given along with treatment for the cancer.
Supportive care also includes taking care of your emotional, social, spiritual and practical needs (such as child care or elder care).
Supportive care begins at diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and beyond. It's a vital part of care for people with all stages of breast cancer.
This page has information on supportive care for people with early or locally advanced breast cancer.
Learn about pain management and other supportive care for people with metastatic breast cancer.
You can find information on many supportive care topics including:
After a breast cancer diagnosis, you may feel a wide range of emotions including shock, fear, denial, sadness and anger. It's common to feel depressed and anxious .
Taking care of your emotional well-being during this time is as important as tending to the physical side effects of treatment.
Talk with your health care provider or patient navigator about how you're coping. They can help you find ways to improve your emotional well-being. Or they can help you find a counselor or support group.
Learn more about:
Social support is the emotional support, practical help and other benefits you get from your family, friends and other loved ones.
You may also get social support from your community including your church, synagogue or other religious organizations.
Many people can expand and strengthen their social support systems by joining a breast cancer support group.
Social support can improve your emotional health. Breast cancer survivors who have a lot of social support tend to cope better than survivors with little support [200-201].
Learn more about social support and support groups.
As with any major illness, breast cancer affects spouses and partners, family members and other loved ones. They may feel many of the same emotions as the person diagnosed: shock, sadness, fear, anger and denial.
Although they can be strong sources of support throughout diagnosis, treatment and recovery, loved ones (especially spouses, partners and children) may also need social support.
Learn more about social support for family, friends and other loved ones.
Find more information for family and friends, including a list of resources.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES
All breast cancer treatments have some short-term physical side effects.
However, everyone is different. With any treatment, your side effects may differ from someone else’s.
The good news is most side effects can be managed and many can be prevented. Even so, it’s natural to worry.
Before any treatment begins, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and ways to deal with them.
Learn about possible short-term side effects including (in alphabetical order):
Learn about possible short-term side effects of different treatments:
Once treatment begins, tell your provider about any side effects you have.
The only way your provider can help you manage side effects is if he or she knows about them. So, be honest and tell your provider what you are going through.
Together, you can discuss ways to manage your symptoms. It may be helpful to keep a list of your symptoms to take with you to provider visits.
Relieving symptoms helps you feel better. Therefore, it can help you complete treatment.
Breast cancer treatment is most effective when all parts of the treatment plan are completed.
Learn more about the importance of following your breast cancer treatment plan.
Some health care providers are more experienced at treating pain than others.
Palliative care and pain specialists (physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses) treat pain from cancer or other causes. They can treat people with early breast cancer as well as those with advanced breast cancer.
Palliative care specialists help people maintain the best quality of life possible. They have special training in pain management and symptom management.
Palliative care specialists can discuss the burdens versus the benefits of different treatments for your symptoms as well as for medications or other therapies to treat the cancer.
Anesthesia pain experts are anesthesiologists with special training in pain management. They are experts in procedures (such as injections) to relieve pain.
Sometimes a palliative care specialist or an anesthesia pain specialist is part of your treatment team. If not, be sure to ask your oncologist for a referral to a specialist if:
Your oncologist can usually follow the specialist’s recommendations. If the treatment is effective, you won’t need to see the specialist again.
For a list of palliative care and pain management centers and palliative care programs in your area, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345).
For more information on palliative care, visit the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine website or the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website.
Learn more about managing pain.
Once breast cancer treatment ends, most of the physical side effects of treatment go away.
However, some side effects may be long-term. Some may occur months or even years after treatment ends.
These late effects of treatment vary from person to person, so your experience may be different from others.
Learn more about possible late effects of breast cancer treatment.
Relieving pain is important throughout your breast cancer care.
Never hesitate to let your health care provider know about any pain or discomfort you have.
The goal of pain management is to give the most pain relief with the least amount of therapy (to limit side effects).
For most people, pain from breast cancer treatment is temporary and goes away after treatment ends. Some people, however, can have pain for longer periods of time.
Learn more about managing pain related to breast cancer treatment.
Throughout breast cancer treatment, you may face many practical challenges.
You must deal with financial issues as well as practical needs such as help with child care or perhaps getting groceries on days when you don’t feel well.
After a breast cancer diagnosis, dealing with insurance and financial issues can feel overwhelming.
Whether you need help going through your insurance plan or financial assistance for prescription drug costs and other expenses, there are resources to help.
Getting to your breast cancer treatments can be hard, especially if you don’t live near the hospital or medical center.
If you need a ride to and from treatment or help with child care or elder care, there may be resources that can help.
Family and friends often want to help, but do not know how. These may be great ways for them to help. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
Some organizations offer programs to help with transportation or costs related to transportation, child care and elder care. Others offer lodging if you need a place to stay overnight during treatment.
Learn more about:
Find information for family and friends and a brochure for helpful tips for family and friends.
Susan G. Komen® partners with CancerCare® to offer the Komen Treatment Assistance Program which bridges the gap for underserved individuals who are actively undergoing breast cancer treatment.
With this program, we aim to help those who are facing financial challenges by providing the following to low-income, underinsured or uninsured women across the country: an assessment by an oncology social worker, limited financial assistance, breast cancer education, psychosocial support and information about local resources.
Funding helps women of any age who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, at any stage of the disease. Financial assistance is granted to women who meet pre-determined eligibility criteria. To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636).
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?