Life After Breast Cancer

Macmillan Cancer Support

As part of your follow-up after treatment, you will have yearly mammograms every year for 5 years. You may have routine appointments with your doctor or breast care nurse, or they may give you information on what to look out for.

Your treated breast will look and feel different. If you notice anything unusual between appointments, contact your cancer specialist or breast care nurse straight away. You may get anxious between appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or a support organisation.

Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a swelling of the arm or hand. It sometimes happens after surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the armpit. It usually develops slowly, months or years after treatment.

There are things you can do to help reduce your chances of developing lymphoedema. If you notice any swelling in your arm, hand or chest, always ask your doctor or nurse to check it.

Sex life and fertility

Breast cancer treatments can have a direct effect on your sex life. In younger women some treatments may also affect being able to get pregnant (fertility).

For example, surgery may affect how you think and feel about your body (body image) which can affect your sex life. It can take time to adjust to changes to your body. If you have a partner, it can help to talk openly with them about your feelings. If any difficulties do not improve, ask your breast care nurse or doctor for advice.

If you have not been through menopause your doctor or nurse will advise you not to use contraception containing hormones. Women thinking of getting pregnant in the future will usually be advised to wait for 2 years.

If doctors think your treatment may affect your fertility, it may be possible to remove eggs from your ovaries before treatment starts. This may mean you can have fertility treatment in the future. Fertility issues can hard to cope with. Some women may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor.

Early menopause

Some treatments can cause permanent or temporary menopause, which can cause different symptoms. It can increase your risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).

Doctors do not usually recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after breast cancer. But there are different ways of managing menopausal symptoms and looking after your bone health.

Well-being and recovery

Even if you already have a healthy lifestyle, you may choose to make some positive lifestyle changes after treatment. Making small changes to the way you live such as eating well and keeping active can improve your health and well-being and help your body recover.

Useful resources

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Helplines & Web Chats

Marie Curie - Helpline
Cancer Research UK - Helpline
Bowel Cancer UK - Forum
Bowel Cancer UK - Ask a Nurse
Macmillan Helpline
Cancer Focus - Nurse Line
Macmillan - Forum
Prostate Cancer UK - Forum
Macmillan - Ask an expert
Prostate Cancer UK - Specialist Nurse
Macmillan - Bereavement Forum