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Treating other effects of post-breast cancer treatment

Other Clinical Oncology Breast Cancer Survivorship Care Guideline recommendations include:


Weight loss for those who are overweight or obese can ease the symptoms of lymphedema, a blockage in the lymphatic system often caused by lymph node removal during cancer surgery. Physical or occupational therapists, and lymphedema specialists also can help. “If you’re noticing a problem – even during treatment – treat it right away,” said Kay Dekker, breast care coordinator at Windsong Breast Care. “The sooner, the better.”


Primary care clinicians are encouraged to conduct a baseline bone scan on all premenopausal women taking tamoxifen and similar estrogen-blocking drugs, and all menopausal breast cancer survivors taking an aromatase inhibitor. The test should be repeated every two years. Acupuncture, physical activity and physical therapy should be considered when assessing musculoskeletal symptoms, including pain.


Primary care providers can help assess pain and offer both drug and non-drug solutions. Guidelines encourage physical activity for neuropathy and duloxetine for patients with pain, numbness and tingling in their hands or feet.


The guidelines recommend medications, lifestyle and other modifications to help mitigate menopausal symptoms. They also encourage health providers to ask about signs of sexual dysfunction or problems with sexual intimacy. Many can be addressed simply and others can be handled through counseling.


Fatigue can be common and include a variety of related or unrelated causes, according to the guidelines, including anemia, thyroid dysfunction, sleep disturbance and pain. Ask your primary health provider about how to detect and treat causes.

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