Life after treatment for DCIS
You’ll probably be keen to get back to the things you did before your DCIS. But you may still be coping with side effects of treatment, such as fatigue.
It’s important to talk about any concerns or questions you have with your specialist and breast care nurse. After treatment you’ll probably want to know what to expect, if there’s anything you should avoid, how to make the most of your health and where to get support.
We have more information on what to do after your treatment ends.
Effects on your sex life
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The emotional impact of coping with DCIS and some treatment side effects can reduce your sex drive. Surgery to remove part or all of the breast can also affect how you see yourself as a woman. You may feel insecure and worry whether your partner still finds you sexually attractive. Or you may feel anxious about new relationships.
After treatment, partners are often concerned about how to express their love physically and emotionally. They may not have a problem with any changes in your appearance. If you feel there’s awkwardness between you, it can help to try to talk about it.
Cuddles, kisses and massages are affectionate and sensual ways of showing how much you care for someone, even if you don’t feel like having sex. You can wait until you and your partner feel ready – there’s no right or wrong time.
If you feel very self-conscious, making love while partly dressed or keeping the lighting low may be better for you. Usually, any problems with your sex life gradually get better with time.
Let your doctor or nurse know if you’re having problems with your sex life. They may be able to reassure you about your concerns. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor or nurse, you may want to call our cancer support specialists.
You can call the Macmillan Support Line to talk through your concerns and get practical and emotional support.
Some people may find it helpful to talk to a sex therapist. You can contact a therapist through the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.
We have more information available on sexuality and cancer, which explains how cancer and its treatment can affect your sexuality and which includes possible solutions and ways of coping.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
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Because HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer, women with DCIS are usually advised not to take it.
There are other ways in which menopausal symptoms can be treated. If hot flushes are troublesome, low doses of some antidepressants can help. There are also different lubricants and creams that help improve vaginal dryness.
We have information about breast cancer and menopausal symptoms.
Taking the contraceptive pill slightly increases the risk of breast cancer because it contains hormones. If you take the pill, ask your specialist whether you should continue to take it. Your GP or family planning clinic can tell you about other forms of contraception.
Occasionally, women with DCIS have a sentinel lymph node biopsy or have some lymph nodes in the armpit removed by surgery (sampling). After surgery to the lymph nodes, there’s a very small risk of getting lymphoedema (swelling of the arm or hand). This is rare after a sentinel lymph node biopsy, and there’s only a small risk after lymph node sampling.
If you have lymphoedema, the following tips may help. If you don’t, it’s still a good idea to look after the skin on your hand and arm to help avoid infection and reduce the risk of lymphoedema.
Always protect your arm and hand by wearing gloves when doing DIY or working with animals.
Don’t have blood taken from that arm.
Use an electric razor to shave under your arm.
Use nail clippers to cut your nails and don’t push back or cut your cuticles; use cream instead.
Treat even small grazes and cuts with antiseptic and keep them clean until they heal.
See your GP at the first sign of any infection (if a cut is inflamed or feels warm and tender).
If you have any swelling in your arm or hand, get it checked by your doctor or nurse straight away.
We have more information about coping with lymphoedema.
Lifestyle changes – making positive decisions
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After treatment, some women want to know more about lifestyle changes that can benefit their overall health. This is not to say you didn’t follow a healthy lifestyle before DCIS, but you may now want to focus more on making the most of your health.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is about making small, achievable changes to the way you live that will improve your health and well-being. The suggestions on this page can also lower your risk of some cancers and illnesses such as heart disease, bone thinning (osteoporosis) and diabetes.
A healthy lifestyle can include:
having a well-balanced diet
getting some exercise
You can choose to make just a few changes or completely change the way you live. It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes appear to be a lot of hard work and mean denying yourself lots of pleasures in life. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Your healthy lifestyle will be individual to you, and what’s right for you may not be right for someone else.
Keep to a healthy weight and eat the right foods
Being overweight after the menopause can increase the risk of breast cancer. Try to keep your weight within the normal range for your height. Your GP can advise you and give you information on your ideal weight.
A well-balanced diet should include:
plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (aim to eat at least five portions a day)
foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.
You should also try to reduce your intake of red meat and animal fats, alcohol, and salted, pickled and smoked foods.
We have more information about healthy eating and cancer and weight management after cancer treatment.
Stick to sensible drinking
Too much alcohol over many years can increase the risk of breast cancer. Current sensible drinking guidelines recommend women drink less than two units per day, or 14 units per week.
If you’re a smoker, giving up smoking is the healthiest decision you can make.
Exercise doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous. You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. Whatever your age or physical health, there will be some kind of exercise you could try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. Activities like gardening, dancing and playing sport are also good to try.
Reduce stress in your life
Being diagnosed with DCIS can be a stressful time in your life. But there are things you can do to reduce your stress levels.
You could try doing things that you enjoy and that make you laugh.
Some people find it relaxing to meditate or pray, or to start a new pastime or hobby. You may find it helpful to write a journal or blog.
When treatment finishes, many people find it helps to talk about it and share their thoughts, feelings and advice with other people. This can be especially helpful for other people with DCIS who are perhaps about to start their treatment. Just hearing about how you’ve coped, what side effects you had and how you managed them is very helpful to someone in a similar situation.
We can help you share your story to help others by becoming a cancer voice.