Follow-up after treatment for secondary breast cancer

After treatment for secondary breast cancer, you’ll have regular appointments with your cancer specialist and specialist nurse. They will monitor how the cancer has responded to treatment and how you are feeling generally. If you have any problems or develop new symptoms in between appointments, contact them straight away. Some women may be referred to a doctor or nurse who specialises in controlling symptoms.

It’s normal to feel worried before your appointments. Talking to your family and friends about how you feel can help.

Although coping with secondary breast cancer can be difficult, there will be times when you feel able to get on with day-to-day life. Taking good care of yourself is important. Get enough rest and ask family and friends to help out. Save energy to do the things you really enjoy.

When you feel able, try to keep physically active. Even short walks will give you more energy, but don’t overdo it. Try to eat well even if you don’t have much of an appetite. You can ask to see a dietitian if you need more advice.

Follow-up

After your treatment, you’ll see your cancer doctor and specialist nurse at the clinic. They check on your recovery and how well the cancer and symptoms have responded to treatment.

Appointments are also a good opportunity for you to talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you have. You may have further scans or x-rays if you need them.

If you have any problems or notice any new symptoms between appointments, contact your cancer doctor or nurse for advice.

It’s natural to get anxious before appointments. It may help to get support from family, friends or one of the support organisations listed in our database of national organisations.


Living with secondary breast cancer

Coping with secondary breast cancer is both physically and emotionally demanding. But many women are now living longer and better lives with treatment. There may be long periods when the cancer is under control and you’re getting on with living your day-to-day life. Remember to look after yourself and allow others to help you.

A big challenge has been to get back to the confident, active person I was before. Not feeling defined by my cancer has been a big part of this.

Heather


Get enough rest

This is important as you use up a lot more energy when you’re coping with symptoms or recovering from treatments. Try to:

  • get a good night’s sleep – if this is a problem, our fact sheet about sleeping problems has helpful tips
  • ask family and friends to help out with chores such as household tasks and shopping
  • save energy for the things you want to do and pace yourself – if you have a busy day, rest the following day.

We have more information on how to reduce tiredness.


Keep physically active

Keeping physically active can help you during and after treatment. If you can, taking regular, short walks will help your energy levels and help you feel better. Try to walk for a little longer and further each day. But listen to your body and be careful not to overdo it.

Being more physically active may improve symptoms such as tiredness, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. It also keeps your bones healthy and builds your muscle strength.

Looking after your bones is important if you have had an early menopause or are taking aromatase inhibitors. Both of these increase the risk of bone thinning.

Being more active can also help to look after your heart.

Ask your cancer specialist, GP or specialist nurse for advice about the amount and type of physical activity that is right for you.


Eat healthily

Eating healthily will improve your general health and you’ll also feel better and have more energy. If you have put on weight with treatments, it will also help you to manage your weight.

Try to eat:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables a day
  • more chicken and fish (especially oily fish) and less red and processed meat
  • more high-fibre foods.

Even if you haven’t got much of an appetite, try to keep eating well by having regular snacks. There are different supplement drinks available (some on prescription) to help make sure you’re getting enough calories and nutrients.

Ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to a dietitian if you need more advice.