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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.
DCIS has an excellent outlook (prognosis) but it’s natural to still have some difficult emotions to cope with after treatment. But as you recover and get back to your everyday life, these usually get easier to deal with.
We have a section on the emotional effects| of cancer, which you may find helpful.
The emotional effects of coping with DCIS and some treatment side effects can reduce your sex drive. Surgery to remove part or all of the breast may cause problems with how you see yourself as a woman. You may feel insecure and worry if 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 be helpful to try and 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.
Our section on sexuality and cancer| discusses the possible problems following treatment for cancer and has tips on ways of coping.
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 Macmillan Support Line|.
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.
Because HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer, women with DCIS are usually advised not to take it.
There are different ways in which menopausal symptoms can be treated. If hot flushes are troublesome, low doses of antidepressants can effectively reduce them. There are also different lubricants and creams that help improve vaginal dryness.
We have more information on 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 if you should continue to take it. Your GP or family planning clinic can give you information about other forms of contraception.
Occasionally women with DCIS have a test called a sentinel lymph node biopsy| or have some lymph nodes in the armpit removed by surgery (sampling). There’s a very small risk of getting lymphoedema (swelling of the arm or hand) after surgery to the lymph nodes. This is rare after sentinel lymph node biopsy, and there’s only a small risk after lymph node sampling. It’s still a good idea to look after the skin on your hand and arm to help avoid infection and to reduce the risk of lymphoedema.
We have more detailed information on coping with lymphoedema|.
After treatment some women might want to know more about lifestyle changes that can benefit their overall health. It’s not to say you didn’t follow a healthy lifestyle before DCIS, just that you want to focus more on making the most of your health.
Some of the following suggestions can help you feel better and improve your general health. They may lower your risk of some cancers and illnesses such as heart disease, bone thinning (osteoporosis) and diabetes.
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.
Eating the right foods will help you keep to a healthy weight and will make you feel better. Have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and eat more high-fibre foods. Cut down on red meat, animal fats and salted, pickled and smoked foods.
Our section on eating well after cancer treatment| has helpful advice.
Regular exercise may help to reduce your risk of breast cancer and some other cancers. It also helps keep your heart healthy, reduces the risk of bone thinning and makes you feel better. Taking regular exercise also reduces stress and improves fatigue. Start slowly and increase your activity over time. Ask your GP for advice.
We have a section on physical activity after cancer treatment|, which has more information about the benefits.
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. It’s a major risk factor for smoking-related cancers and heart disease. If you’ve had radiotherapy, stopping smoking reduces your risk of possible lung problems.
Smoking increases your risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). If you’re taking an aromatase inhibitor, you have an increased risk of bone thinning.
Our information about giving up smoking| has more advice and tips to help you succeed.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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