No matter what your treatment plan - your life after battling breast cancer will be changed forever. It will be important for you to follow up with your doctor's visits and take your medication as prescribed. This is your best line of defense in helping to beat cancer for good. You may also want to make some healthy lifestyle changes.
Adopting a Mediterranean diet has been proven to help ward off breast cancer. Add lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. On this diet you can also enjoy a glass of red wine per day because of the antioxidants and polyphenols it comes with. But be sure not to overdo it - moderation is the key. Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which can lead to cancer. So the more antioxidants you eat - the better. Remember to eat with your eyes first - a diet rich in antioxidants is also a diet rich in colors. Eat a wide variety of colorful foods.
It doesn't matter what you do - as long as you're moving. Any exercise that gets your heart rate pumping is good enough. It has been reported that obesity may amount to as much as 30 percent of major cancers like those of the colon, breast, kidney and esophagus. Amazingly, even weight loss of only five to 10 percent of your total body weight can provide tremendous health benefits. Don't feel overwhelmed - just start nice and easy by walking around the block. You can pick it up from there and incorporate other exercises. It might be a good idea to find an exercise buddy - by the time you're all caught up on what's been going on in each other's lives you won't even realize that you've been exercising for a good amount of time.
If you haven't stopped smoking - this is the time to do it. Smoking can contribute to cancers of the throat, mouth and bladder. Once you've had cancer you are more susceptible to getting other types of cancers. But to be fair - there are no studies that have found a direct link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer. However, there have been tests in rodents where they developed breast cancer after being exposed to high doses of the chemicals in mainstream and secondhand smoke. In 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General came out with a study that found there is "suggestive but not sufficient" evidence between smoke and breast cancer. The suggestion is enough for me - stop smoking! It will also help you with the healing process after surgery.
Knowing When to Say "No"
You'll want to jump right back into your former life. But along with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapies comes fatigue. Your body has been through an all out assault and fought back to become healthy again - it's OK to be tired. Pace yourself and allow yourself time to relax and unwind. You don't need to go back to being the soccer mom, PTA president and business executive all at once. Give yourself time and lean on the support system you made when you were diagnosed - those close friends and family members will be happy to help you now too.
Chemotherapy's After Effects
Chemotherapy may have changed your appearance. Your straight hair may now be curly. Your dark hair may now be grayer than before. And sometimes the texture of your hair can even be altered. Often patients complain of dry skin after chemotherapy as well. Sometimes patients have trouble focusing or memory loss from chemotherapy. You'll need to be patient with yourself and mark down when you're noticing these mental changes so you can talk with your doctor about them.
Sex After Breast Cancer
Patients often ask me about sex after breast cancer. This is a very sensitive and individual issue. If you've had a mastectomy with reconstruction you will have to get used to life with your new body. Not only will your appearance be new to you but also to your significant other.
Going through certain breast cancer treatments can sometimes alter your body temporarily. Chemotherapy and radiation can give you lingering fatigue. While other treatments can cause premature menopause, hair loss, puffiness and you might feel far from sexy. If you have vaginal dryness or lack of sex drive talk to your doctor - he or she can come up with some therapies that may help you and your partner.
The most important part of having sex after battling breast cancer is communication. You need to talk to your partner about your fears and your feelings. There may be some lingering side effects from treatment for several years - but dealing with your feelings first is a good place to start. Like with everything else following your battle with breast cancer - give yourself time. You don't have to jump right back into the life you had before. It's OK to go slow.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is the Chief of Breast Surgery & Director of The Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital. She is also an assistant clinical professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com. Follow Dr. Coomer on Facebookand Twitter.