Getting Back to Normal After Breast Cancer: What to Expect

After a breast cancer diagnosis, many women are eager to get back to their normal lives. But how long does it take to feel normal again? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the treatments used. In general, the wound should heal within six to eight weeks. However, some long-term side effects may appear months or even years after treatment ends.

These can include hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, fatigue, chronic breast pain, lymphedema, and loss of sexual desire. It's important to be aware of any changes or problems you notice or any concerns you have, and to contact your doctor's office right away if questions about cancer arise between visits. Susan Hoover, a surgical oncologist with the Breast Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, answers five questions about life after breast cancer. Knowing what scars look and feel like will help you notice any immediate and possible changes in the future.

The follow-up schedule may depend on many factors, such as the type of

breast cancer

, how advanced it was when it was detected (the stage of the cancer), and how it was treated (or is being treated). Sometimes, these problems are caused by depression, feelings of guilt about the way you got cancer, changes in body image after surgery, and stress between you and your partner. In terms of body image, studies have demonstrated important psychological ramifications for women who undergo a mastectomy, as many of them face problems of disfigurement and suffering as a result of the loss of their breasts. Research has shown that younger women who undergo more radical surgery, such as mastectomy with lymph node removal and reconstruction, have a more negative body image than those who can keep their breasts, such as in lumpectomy.

There are an estimated 3.2 million women in the United States living with

breast cancer

, and breast cancer mortality rates have been steadily declining since 1990. Although breast cancer usually has a negative impact on quality of life, it can also cause a positive change in prognosis. These women may continue to receive treatments to help keep breast cancer under control and relieve their symptoms. Women may want to wear a supportive bra day and night if the swelling is uncomfortable and heavy.

Controlling side effects and other problems that reduce quality of life is an important part of breast cancer care.Contact your family doctor, breast nurse or specialist right away if you think you may have a wound infection. After fighting breast cancer, many women wonder when they will return to normal or even if they will ever return to their previous life. If you had a breast reconstruction with a flap of your own tissue, you may also feel a change in sensation in the area where the tissue was removed. Meanwhile, those who underwent a mastectomy with reconstruction seemed to have fewer problems with body image than those who underwent breast removal without reconstruction.The road back to normalcy after breast cancer can be long and winding but it is possible.

With proper care and support from family and friends, many women are able to return to their pre-cancer lives with minimal disruption. It's important to remember that everyone's experience is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all timeline for recovery.

Tonya Sharrai
Tonya Sharrai

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