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.
Rather than treating the cancer itself, symptom management aims to prevent or relieve the side effects of breast cancer and its treatment (such as pain or nausea).
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.
Learn about pain management and other supportive care for people with metastatic breast cancer.
Here, we discuss supportive care for people with early or locally advanced breast cancer.
You can find information on many aspects of care 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 just as important as tending to the physical side effects of treatment.
Talk with your health care provider or your patient navigator about how you're coping with your diagnosis and treatment. They can help you find ways to improve your emotional well-being and 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 [169-170].
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 need social support themselves to help get through the experience.
Learn more about social support for family, friends and other loved ones.
Find more information for family and friends and a list of resources for family and friends.
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.
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, it’s important to 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 and 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.
Possible side effects of surgery include:
Whether you have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy (with or without breast reconstruction), it’s likely you will have temporary soreness in your chest, underarm and shoulder.
Don’t hesitate to let your health care provider know about any pain or discomfort you have after surgery.
Learn more about managing pain related to breast cancer surgery.
Other possible health effects depend on the type of surgery and whether or not axillary lymph nodes are removed.
Talk with your surgeon about the side effects you’re likely to have after surgery and how to treat them.
There may be conditions (such as lymphedema) you should be aware of so you can report symptoms to your provider.
Possible short-term side effects of radiation therapy include:
Most often, these side effects begin within a few weeks of starting treatment and go away within a few weeks after treatment ends .
Before radiation therapy begins, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and ways to deal with them.
Relieving your symptoms helps you feel better and can help you complete your radiation therapy plan. Radiation therapy is most effective when it's completed as planned.
Learn about possible late effects of radiation therapy.
Learn more about radiation therapy.
Learn more about the importance of completing radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy has many common side effects. The side effects you are likely to have depend on the chemotherapy drugs you are given.
Most side effects occur during treatment and begin to go away shortly after treatment ends. Even so, it’s natural to worry. Before chemotherapy begins, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and ways to deal with them.
Once treatment begins, let your oncologist or nurse know how the sessions make you feel. He or she may be able to treat or prevent many side effects. Relieving your symptoms helps you feel better and can help you complete your chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is most effective when it is completed as prescribed.
Some possible short-term side effects of chemotherapy include:
Learn about possible late effects of chemotherapy.
Learn more about the importance of completing chemotherapy.
Targeted therapy drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) have fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
Unlike chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies kill cancer cells while causing little harm to healthy cells.
Learn more about trastuzumab, including possible side effects.
Hormone therapies include tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.
Hormone therapy is taken for 5-10 years. That can be a long time to deal with side effects.
Some side effects of these drugs (such as hot flashes) may become less frequent and less intense over time, but they can still be hard to manage.
Before hormone therapy begins, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and ways to deal with them.
Once treatment begins, let your provider know about any side effects you have. It’s important to be honest with your provider about side effects. The only way your provider can help you is if he or she knows about them.
Together, you can discuss ways to manage your symptoms. Your provider may also be able to switch you to a different hormone therapy that may have fewer side effects for you.
Relieving your symptoms helps you feel better and can help you complete your hormone therapy.
Hormone therapy is most effective when it’s completed as prescribed. However, you do not need to panic if you miss a day or two.
Learn more about the importance of completing hormone therapy.
Some common short-term side effects of tamoxifen include:
Learn about possible late effects of tamoxifen.
Learn more about tamoxifen.
Common short-term side effects of aromatase inhibitors include:
Learn about possible late effects of aromatase inhibitors.
Learn more about aromatase inhibitors.
Relieving pain is important throughout your breast cancer care.
Never hesitate to let your health care provider know about any pain or discomfort you are having.
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, there are resources to help you and your family.
Learn more about:
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 are ways they can help you.
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.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Learn more about:
Find information for family and friends and a brochure for helpful tips for family and friends.
Once breast cancer treatment ends, most of the physical side effects of treatment go away.
However, some side effects may be long-term and 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.
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What gives you strength during treatment?