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Getting healthy after breast cancer treatment: Professor Christobel Saunders

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Hello, my name is Christobel Saunders and I’m a surgeon in Perth, in Western Australia, and mostly I look after women who’ve got breast cancer.

A really important part of is of breast cancer course getting over it, and fortunately most women will survive and we hope that most women will thrive after a diagnosis of breast cancer. So it’s important to think about what you do when your active treatment ends.

Now, this is often a time for women that is very difficult: they’ve been going through perhaps surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and suddenly there they are, at the end of perhaps 6 months or 9 months of treatment, and their doctor says, “you’re doing well now, off you go, we’ll follow up in 6 months or 12 months.” Well, that’s the time you can really think about getting your health back on track. Not only is that important for you, but it’s actually important for your cancer. We know that staying healthy after cancer will actually improve your chances of surviving the disease.

So what do I mean by ‘getting healthy’?

There are a number of things you need to think about. Making sure that your body weight is within the normal limits is really important. And to do that it’s really important to think about your diet but also an exercise regime. We know that exercising after cancer is an important way of getting better and improving your outcomes.

Exercise can of course be difficult. You may have some problems after your treatments, particularly fatigue or other physical issues, as well as of course feeling somewhat down and depressed, which can occur for many women. Exercise will often help all of these symptoms but it’s getting going that’s important.

Fortunately, nowadays there are a lot of programs that women can join after breast cancer, such as the ones run by the YMCA, or the Cancer Councils. Many other local organisations will have exercise programs specifically for people who’ve had cancer or for women who’ve had breast cancer. It’s worth considering joining these, but if not simply getting out and being active and doing at least 30 minutes of active exercise a day is an important way of recovering.

Other issues may be important to make sure your health is really optimised. We know that many women in Australia, despite all of our sunshine, have low vitamin D levels. Worth getting that checked and perhaps taking some vitamin D supplements. It’s also worth considering your general health. You’ve had a scare; you’ve had cancer, but now you are going to survive so you don’t want to get any other illnesses. It’s worth considering going for the other screening tests, not only your follow-up mammograms but also your regular colonoscopic screening for bowel cancer. Cervical cancer screening, if that’s appropriate for you. It’s also worth considering seeing your GP to make sure you get your blood pressure, your cholesterol and other issues checked.

Get fit, survive and thrive after breast cancer.

More information

breast_cancer_support_100x100For more information on breast cancer, types of breast cancer and its investigations and treatments, as well as some useful videos, see Breast Cancer.
losing-weight-scales-100x100For more information on how to assess if you are within a healthy weight range, see BMI (Body Mass Index).
Man's hand in a shirt is on the modern wireless glass touch mouse on a white background, top view.To calculate your breast cancer risk, see the Cancer Australia risk calculator.
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Dates

Posted On: 15 August, 2015
Modified On: 13 November, 2018

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