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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Take some time to consider how your diagnosis and treatment have changed your perspective on life – if at all.

  • It is not unusual for an experience with breast cancer to change one's perspective. Possible changes run the gamut from what is important and not important in life, personal relationships. what to do for work,  the balance between work and personal time, long term goals - to something as simple as deciding to repaint a few walls at home. 
  • Alternatively, the experience may not change your perspective at all.
  • There is no right or wrong here.
  • Consider taking some quiet time to think about this subject to help pull together changes you may not have focused on.
    • Think about how, if at all, you want to act as a response to those thoughts. 
    • If the action you are considering is a major one, think about holding off acting on it for at least a few months until emotions settle and you recover physically.

Reclaim your life.

Treatment can play havoc with your self image including how you see yourself in your relationship, as a sexual partner, physically, and in the work place.Reclaim yourself by taking the following steps:

  • Prioritize what you have to do on a daily basis by order of importance. Carry over what doesn't get done from one day to the next. If it helps, we included a Prioritizer that let's you change order of priority with a click of a button.
  • Focus on activities that can have a short term result, particularly with an accompanying sense of accomplishment.
  • Return to those parts of your old routine that still make sense to you. Start slowly and build up as you go.
  • Reassert control over as much of your life as you can.
  • Celebrate being here today and the things you can do. Let go of yesterday and what you were able to do.
  • At work, start taking back activities you may have handed off to other people. 
    • Work on the parts of your todo list that you let slide. 
    • Keep your limitations in mind. There is a reason people still use the old adage "Rome wasn't built in a day."
  • Get back into your social world at a pace that works for how you feel physically and emotionally. 
    • If you have to go to events before you're ready, showing up for 20 minutes to a half hour lets your host know you care without pushing your limits. 
    • Avoid stressful events and situations until you feel strong enough.
  • Do what you can to make yourself look better, to feel better physically, and to feel okay about your body.
  • Regain physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is important for human well being. Now that treatment is over, it's time for adults to consider the three letter word: s...e...x. If you don't want to have sex for reasons other than your cancer, that's your choice. However, if you are refraining because of your cancer, or what the treatment did to your face or body, it's time to reexamine the issue. See: Sex and Intimacy
  • Travel if you want to once you get clearance from your doctor. We provide guidelines for traveling safely with a health history in Travel 101.
  • If you are single: 
    • Start dating again. Don't let cancer define you. 
    • When it comes to telling a date or someone you are seeing about your cancer history, there is no right or wrong time. Make an informed decision that works for you.
  • If you have been disfigured, you have a new physical identity that may take some adjusting to. Keep in mind that only your physical appearance has changed - not you. The key to coping with the change is to how you see yourself. People in a similar situation suggest that you think of your disfigurement as an emblem of your strength and fortitude. See: Body Image

Changes in your breast can be managed

  • If you had a mastectomy without reconstruction
    • It is likely to take time getting used to your body. To help manage day to day living:
      • Consider a breast form (prostheses). Forms today look natural in a bra when wearing clothes.
      • If you prefer to go without a prostheses, consider techniques for covering up the lack of a breast such as wearing loose clothing, long scarves that go over the breast, vests, and jackets.
    • Note that you can have breast reconstruction years after treatment.
    • If you go for reconstruction, it is advisable to speak with at least two plastic surgeons. Each will have his or her own idea about how to do it and the suggested result. (Getting two opinions is the same as getting a second opinion. Also see: How To Choose A Specialist,  
  • If you had a mastectomy with reconstruction
    • Your breast will not feel the same as before. It is likely to feel numb.
    • It will take time to adjust to the new feeling.
  • If you had radiation
    • Radiation effects can continue for quite some time – perhaps even permanently. For example, a treated breast may always be slightly darker in color than it was before radiation. The texture of the skin may also be slightly different.
    • The normal swelling that accompanies radiation therapy can take up to a year to disappear.
    • Radiation leaves the scar tissue from the surgery more firm. It may take a while to adjust. Over time, sometimes years, the scar tissue is likely to soften.
    • You may experience shooting nerve like pains in your breast and down your arm. This reaction is due to the gradual healing of nerves that were severed during your surgery. Radiation can make them worse.
    • After treatment, some women also report that an ache in their treated breast, armpit, and arm is worse during damp weather. 

Other changes in your body can also be managed.

  • Hair
    • Hair will grow back in. The process may be agonizingly slow since it takes an average of a month to grow a half inch. As we age, hair grown slows down further. Still, your hair will grow back.
    • Do not be surprised if the new hair is a different texture, if it grows in ringlets or is curly, is straight when it didn’t used to be, or is a different color.
      • Ringlets are likely to become wavy in time.
      • Hair will feel more like a baby’s hair, but the texture will likely become more adult.
      • You can use hair color. Hair color is not a cancer risk.
    • Eyebrows, eyelashes and public hair grow back more quickly than hair on your head.
    • For more information about hair loss and what to do about it, click here.
    • If you want to speed up return of your hair, ask your doctor and hairdresser if there are techniques to help. For instance, it is said that brewer’s yeast taken daily speeds the return of hair. So does massaging your scalp every day.
    • NOTE: If you are reluctant to try out short hair in public, consider trying it somewhere where no one knows you first to gauge reactions and to gain confidence.
  • Nails
    • Chemotherapy can discolor nails or make them brittle or possibly sensitive. As a general matter, it can take up to six months after treatment ends to recover your past healthy nails.
    • You can use nail polish to cover until the situation is healed.
    • For information about chemotherapy and nails, click here.
  • Makeup
    • Don’t be surprised in the first month or so if you need more make up than you did before your diagnosis. This will normalize over time.
  • If you gained weight
    • It may take longer than before to take weight off. Studies show that it takes basic will power to consume less calories than you use up. There is no general agreement about whether excess weight increases the risk of recurrence.
    • See: Weight Gain and Loss: Causes And What To Do About It

Educate people about your continuing needs. It will take time to adjust to the new normal.

  • With most illnesses, when treatment is over, life for everyone returns to normal. An immediate return to life the way it was before your diagnosis is likely what your friends expect.
  • However, this is not generally the case with breast cancer. After treatment for breast cancer you are likely to be exhausted for a while, both physically and emotionally. Physical symptoms and emotional needs are likely to continue. (For more information, see: Medical Care.) 
  • You may feel that you aren't getting the support you need which might make you angry or frustrated. Keep in mind that most people do not know the reality of breast cancer. They need to be educated in a manner they understand about your ongoing needs from the cancer or your treatment. 
  • Explain which physical symptoms continue as well as unusual emotions. 
  • Explain that while you are optimistic, breast cancer may recur.
  • Talk about the changes you are going through and your needs. 
  • Consider letting friends know you are likely to be anxious before going to medical appointments so they can be supportive during those periods of time.
  • Ask for any help you still need. See: How To Choose A Mental Health TherapistBreast Cancer: Post Treatment 0 - 6 Months: Emotional Well Being

Expect relationships to change

  • Just as you have to adjust to life after treatment, the people around you also need time to adjust.
  • Family roles likely shifted during treatment, with other family members taking on more of the chores and responsibility. You may still need to depend on others during this time because you are not able to take care of the chores you did before. It can take time to adjust to returning to the norm of the previous family dynamic, or to work through a new norm that works for all members.
  • Your relationship with friends may also have shifted during your treatment. It can take time for a relationship to readjust, or for you to adjust to the new relationship norm.
    • Relationships are mutual. Start listening to their stories and needs if you haven't been. It is time for things to no longer just be about you.
    • Do not be surprised if problems that existed with family and friends before the diagnosis resurface.
  • If your diagnosed eyes now see things differently about certain friends, be honest with yourself. Think about whether the relationship is worth continuing.
  • Here are some ideas that have helped others recovering from breast cancer treatment deal with relationship concerns:
    • Let others know what you are able to do as you heal - and what not to expect you to do. For example:
      • Do not feel that you must keep the house or yard in perfect order because you always did in the past.
      • Help the children in your family understand that it may take a while for you to have the energy you used to have.
    • Talk about your needs. Ask each family member to talk about their needs and concerns. Don't let breast cancer be the 800 pound gorilla in the room that everyone knows is there, but no one talks about.
    • Give yourself time. 
      • You and your family may be able to adjust over time to the changes. 
      • Just being open with each other can help ensure that each person's needs are met.
    • Ask for help when you need it. 
      • Include your underage children when asking for help. It will help children feel as if they are assisting your recovery if they have age appropriate chores to do.Help the children in your family understand that it may take a while for you to have the energy you used to have. (For tips to help children cope, click here.)
    • Accept help. When friends or family offer to help, say yes. Let them know things that they could do to make your life easier. In this way, you will get the support you need and your loved ones will feel helpful.
    • Keep in contact with friends. 
      • It will help relieve their anxiety about you. 
      • If you do not have time to contact everyone, consider sending out periodic group e mails or posting what is happening on one of the social sites such as Facebook.

Talk with your spouse or significant other. It takes the two of you together to work through the new normal in your lives.

  • Your spouse or partner is likely to be anxious to regain balance and put breast cancer behind you both. He or she has likely experienced the same fears you have. However, a spouse or partner may be reluctant to talk about them.
  • It may help to know that the incidence of separation and divorce is no higher for people with cancer than the general population.
  • Don't be surprised if issues and tensions that existed before the diagnosis resurface.
  • Things to do:
    • Talk about each of your feelings and your needs. The two of you have been through a stressful ordeal. Don't think that one conversation will be enough. It will take time to adjust to the new physical you and the emotions that are likely to stay around for a while.
    • Look for time alone together. A post treatment trip is recommended in the Emotion article Consider taking a post-treatment survival trip together.
    • Work toward a new balance that takes into account both of your needs.
    • Perhaps start intimacy with other methods such as cuddling, or massaging each others' backs. (For tips about sex and intimacy, click here.)
    • If the situation with your spouse or partner is difficult to handle, consider speaking with a counselor or therapist, especially one who has experience in working with couples during a transition period after the end of breast cancer treatment. (Ask other women for their suggestions about counselors they have found effective). See: How To Choose A Mental Health Therapist
    • If it appears that things won't work out between you, don't make a definitive move yet. If it makes you feel better, start exploring the pros and cons of splitting up (including speaking with a divorce lawyer). Wait until at least the nine month mark and preferably the twelve month mark before making and acting on a decision.

What to do if you have underage children.

  • Children don’t have any idea what to expect during post treatment. Like the adults in your life, they likely expect that everything will return to the way it was right away.
  • Tell Children
    • Tell them about your situation and ongoing needs in an age appropriate manner.For information, see: Children: Why To Tell About Your Condition And How To Tell
    • Let your children know that you were scared too. Remind them you are fine now. You see the doctors to keep it that way.
    • Tell them that you will always be honest with them.
    • Under age children do not need to know about your worries about the future, or what could happen.
    • If you err on either side, do it on the side of caring too much.
  • Watch for reactions.
    • Reactions that may seem overboard for the immediate cause may be a substitute for fear that you may die.
    • Adolescent children may appear to be indifferent. Self absorption during adolescent years is a normal development. Each child will deal with fears about your health in his or her own way.
    • see: Common  Behavioral Reactions Of Children And What To Do About Them
  • Tips for helping children cope are the same as during treatment. For example:
    • Spend one-on-one time with each child.
    • Encourage each child to talk about how they felt during treatment and how they feel now.
    • Ask teachers to watch for behavioral problems.
  • Prepare to answer the question: “Are you cured mommy?” Be honest. For example, you can say something like: “I am okay now. I’m hopeful that I will stay that way.”

Consider getting a pet. 

  • Studies show that pets are good for your emotional and physical health. It doesn’t have to only be a dog or a cat.
  • Avoid unnecessary infections. Learn what steps to take to be sure your pet does not infect you.
  • Our information about pets includes such subjects as how to travel with a pet, what to consider when thinking about pet insurance and how not to become infected.
  • See; Pets 101

Adopt a cancer prevention diet and lifestyle..

  • While the question of whether a prevention diet will prevent a recurrence is being studied, indications are that it does help. It doesn't hurt. Adopting a cancer prevention diet and lifestyle is a method to help you feel in control on a daily basis.
  • Be cautious about claims that a particular diet, food or supplement can prevent recurrence. Look for scientific proof rather than anecdotal evidence. Check what you find with your oncologist.
  • Get rid of unhealthy habits such as smoking. In addition to helping prevent different types of cancer, you will help prevent heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other illnesses. See: Quitting Smoking
  • Handle, cook and store foods safely.  See; Guidelines For The Safe Handling, Cooking And Storage Of Food
  • There is strong evidence that alcohol increases the risk for recurrence of breast cancer. If you must drink limit it to one or two glasses of wine a day.
  • NOTE:  Studies show that we are influenced by the behavior of the people close to us. It  is likely to be easier to  eat healthy if the people around you eat healthy. Helping your family unit eat healthy is something positive that can come from your cancer experience.


  • Physical activity improves quality of life. Research looks promising that physical activity will also lower the risk of recurrence of breast cancer and even mortality. 
    • If your weight changed since your diagnosis, exercise will help you normalize it as well.
    • Exercise also has a large number of other benefits such as helping to prevent other chronic diseases, and reduce risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
    • There does not seem to be any downside to exercise.
  • You do not have to join a gym to get benefit from exercise. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed 2,987 women with breast cancer. Women who exercised more than three MET hours a week after diagnosis were less likely to die of their cancer. (Researchers measured how much energy exercisers expended in metabolic equivalent task (MET) hours. One MET hour is the equivalent of the energy expended by the body during one hour of rest. You can use several MET hours of exercise during one real time hour. For example, one hour of doubles tennis is equal to 5 MET hours). To see a list of activities and the MET hours each generates, see: offsite link
  • There are exercise programs designed for people with cancer throughout the country.
    • A weight training regiment for breast cancer survivors is available at many local YMCAs and YWCAs throughout the country. The program is particularly aimed at managing lymphedema. The program was created in partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. (To find a local YMCA, click here offsite link. To find a local YWCA, click here offsite link.)
    • The American College of Sports Medicine has a certification program for health and fitness instructors who work with cancer patients. To find a trainer in your area, go to, offsite link Click on "Certification."   Then click on "Find An ACSM Certified Trainer."  On the next page, scroll down to "ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer". (The program was developed with the American Cancer Society).
    • Other professionals who can help develop exercise programs for your specific needs and situation are physical therapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists.
    • For other programs, check with your local gyms, disease specific non-profit organizations, and your oncologist.
  • Exercise can be difficult to sustain over time. Think about techniques to help keep you motivated. For instance:
    • Set up a system that reminds you periodically of why you exercise. For example, a posting on your refrigerator, or an alert that pops up on your computer every few weeks.
    • Find a buddy to exercise with. (One of the advantages of classes or gyms for people with cancer is the company and support of people in a similar situation). NOTE: An exercise buddy is not necessarily the same person as a Cancer Buddy
    • For more information about exercise, click here.
  • See: How To Choose A Gym, How To Avoid Infection In A Gym
  • NOTE: Check with your doctor before starting new exercise.

Do what you can to avoid unnecessary infections.

  • A few techniques have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of infection. For instance:
    • Keep your hands away from your face - particularly around your mouth, nose and eyes.
    • Wash your hands regularly. When you wash your hands, use soap and water for the amount of time it takes you to sing Happy Birthday.
    • Wash your hands before leaving the gym and after being in other highly trafficked areas.
    • Eat a healthy diet - such as the cancer prevention diet described above.
    • Store, cook and handle food safely.

If you want to have a child, it is advisable to delay a while. If you are no longer able to have children yourself, there are alternatives.

  • If Chemotherapy Causes You To Stop Menstruating
    • Do not assume that you are not fertile just because you stopped menstruating. Use condoms. If you get pregnant, and breast cancer returns, you will face questions about the impact of cancer treatments on the fetus and about possibly terminating the pregnancy or risking your life.
    • See: Post Treatment Fertility For Women 
  • Pregnancy After Breast Cancer
    • Pregnancy does not cause cancer. However, hormones that accompany pregnancy may hasten a recurrence.
    • Current thought is it is okay to get pregnant if you are cancer free for at least three years – preferably for five.
    • Speak with your cancer doctor for information about your particular situation. You can find additional information from Young Survival Coalition ( offsite link) and Fertile Hope ( offsite link
  • Adoption.
    • The Americans With Disabilities Act and similar laws (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with a disability. The law covers adoption agencies. Your breast cancer may or may not be considered to be a disability for purposes of the act.
    • Whether it is covered or not, expect that an adoption agency will want clarification about your health status and the possibility of a recurrence. At least a letter from your cancer doctor will likely be required. Do not be surprised if the agency requests that you wait for a few years after end of treatment before adopting.
    • See: Adoption
  • Surrogate Mom
    • If you are still able to carry a baby, there are options. Speak with your doctor.

Keep in mind that you are not your disease. For information, click here.

  • Thank the people who have helped since treatment began.
  • If you learned life lessons during treatment, start putting them into practice. Otherwise they may be lost until the day you wake up and wonder what happened.

Consider thanking the people who helped.

  • Include the professionals, family members and friends who have helped you through treatment. Hopefully they deserve it.
  • Thank you notes work well, particularly when hand written. A sincere moment of person-to-person thanks is also appreciated.
  • Something home baked dropped off at your doctor’s office is generally especially appreciated. 

NOTE: For additional information about life during the first six months after treatment ends, it is recommended that you read at least the Summary section of each of the following.