A person is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and care-givers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition — National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

Survivors and their families face many challenges following a diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship recognizes that there are different needs experienced by survivors across the course of their illness and recovery. Quality of life issues are different for survivors than for patients at the point of diagnosis and treatment. At North York General Hospital, we feel that survivorship is an important part of the cancer journey and we work to give you the best support and resources for you and your family. Learn more about survivorship from: the Canadian Cancer Society.

NOTE: Please contact the patient navigator if you have any questions or concerns.

Monitoring your health

All breast cancer survivors, like all cancer patients, are at risk for their cancer to come back or reoccur. Most recurrences are discovered within five years but can happen at any time. It is important to continue seeing your physicians for regular check-ups after you have finished treatment. Follow-up care is usually shared among your medical oncologist, surgeon, and family physician. The frequency and length of time you are monitored depends on your individual situation.

Wellbeing after treatment

The term “wellness” addresses elements of the body, mind and spirit which contribute to your well-being in general. These elements can include healthy eating, exercise, emotional wellbeing, social and community connections, sexuality and spirituality. Positive lifestyle habits can increase your sense of wellbeing. There are several resources and support programs available to help you transition to life after cancer.

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Some patients may experience complications from their treatment that could persist for weeks, months, or into the longer term. Other patients may experience delayed complications. These may include, but are not limited to fatigue, pain, osteoporosis, lymphedema, neuropathy (nerve pain), menopausal symptoms, and “chemo-brain” (also known as foggy brain).

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Managing lymphedema

Lymphedema is a potential complication resulting from the removal of lymph nodes under the arm that may occur months to years after surgery. This complication results in swelling in the hand, arm, shoulder, or chest area. Severity and duration of the condition varies.

Identifying the signs of lymphedema (external website) and intervening early results in better outcomes. If you develop lymphedema, a number of treatment options are available, including specific exercises and manual lymph drainage. A referral to a qualified specialist can be made by your physician.

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