After treatment for DCIS

After treatment for DCIS your breast care nurse will explain what to expect and to look out for. You may still be coping with physical side effects and emotional effects. Talk about any concerns you may have with your cancer specialist or breast cancer nurse.

Surgery can affect your body image which can have an effect on your sex life. Usually, any problems get better over time but talk to your doctor or nurse if they don’t.

Your nurse can tell you what type of contraception is now suitable for you. If you have been through menopause, they will advise you not to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It contains oestrogen, which could encourage breast cancer cells to grow.

Lymphoedema (swelling of the arm) is not common after a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Your nurse will give you advice about this. Always let them know if you notice any swelling.

Some women may also decide to make positive changes to their lifestyle. This could be keeping to a healthy weight, being more physically active, not smoking and reducing stress.

After treatment

You’ll probably be keen to get back to the things you did before being diagnosed. But you may still be coping with some side effects of treatment and with some difficult emotions.

It’s important to talk about any concerns or questions you have with your cancer specialist and breast care nurse. After treatment, you may want to know what to expect, whether there’s anything you should avoid, how to make the most of your health and where to get support.


Effects on your sex life

DCIS, its treatments and side effects may affect your feelings about yourself as a woman and your sex life. Difficulties often gradually improve after treatment, although for some women, it may take longer.

You may feel insecure and worry whether or not your present or a future partner will find you sexually attractive. It can help to try to talk about it with them if you feel things are awkward between you.

Cuddles, kisses and massages can show 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.

Let your doctor or nurse know if any difficulties with your sex life don’t improve. They may be able to reassure you and can offer further help and support. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor or nurse, you can call us on 0808 808 00 00.

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 about sexuality and cancer.


Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to use contraception that contains hormones as these can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. This includes the pill or coils (intra-uterine devices) that release hormones. Your specialist or breast care nurse can give you advice about other forms of contraception. Coils that don’t contain hormones or barrier methods, such as condoms or the cap, are usually the most suitable.


Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Doctors don’t recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because it contains oestrogen, which could encourage breast cancer cells to grow.

There are other ways that menopausal symptoms can be treated. If hot flushes are troublesome, your doctor can prescribe medication to help. There are also different lubricants and creams that help improve vaginal dryness. Your breast care nurse can give you advice on managing menopausal symptoms.

Some doctors may occasionally prescribe HRT for severe menopausal symptoms when nothing else has helped. Women need to talk about this with their doctor so they are aware of the possible benefits and risks.


Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a swelling of the arm that sometimes happens after surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the armpit. It can develop months or years after treatment. If you only had a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your risk of lymphoedema is small.

There are things you can do to help reduce your chances of developing lymphoedema. It’s important to protect your arm and hand, and to look after the skin in that area. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your skin clean and moisturise it every day with unperfumed cream or oil to keep it in good condition.
  • Wash small grazes and cuts straight away, put on antiseptic cream and cover if necessary.
  • See your GP straight away if you get signs of infection around a cut, for example, if it becomes red, hot or swollen.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when doing household tasks, DIY, gardening or when handling animals/pets.
  • Use nail clippers to cut your nails and don’t push back or cut the cuticles – use cuticle cream instead.
  • Use an electric razor if you shave under your arms.
  • Cover up in the sun and use a suncream with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

If you notice any swelling in your arm, hand or chest, always get it checked by your doctor or nurse. The earlier lymphoedema is diagnosed, the easier it is to manage and treat successfully.


Making healthy choices

After treatment some women choose to make some positive lifestyle changes. Even if you followed a healthy lifestyle before, you might want to focus more on making the most of your health. This can be done by making small, achievable changes to the way you live that will improve your health and well-being.


Keep to a healthy weight

There’s some evidence that keeping to a healthy weight after the menopause may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. Your GP can advise you and give you information on your ideal weight. We already know it reduces the risk of heart problems, diabetes and developing some other cancers. Try to:

  • only eat as much food as you need
  • eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables
  • eat less saturated fat and sugar
  • become more physically active.


Stick to sensible drinking

Stick to sensible drinking guidelines, which recommend that women drink less than two units a day or 14 units a week. Try to have a few alcohol-free days a week.


Give up smoking

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.


Get physically active

Being physically active helps to keep your weight healthy and can reduce stress and tiredness. It helps to keep your bones strong and your heart healthy. This can be an important part of your recovery after treatment. It can help you to feel better in yourself and help to build up your energy levels. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Talk to your cancer specialist or GP before you start exercising. Start slowly and increase your activity over time.


Reduce stress in your life

Being diagnosed with DCIS can be a stressful time in your life. One way of coping with stress is to make time to relax. Relaxing can be as simple as having a meal with friends or family, going for a walk, enjoying a bath, listening to music or watching a film. These can all help you to reduce any anxiety.


Share your experience

When treatment finishes, you might find it helps to talk about it with other people and share your thoughts, feelings and advice. Just hearing about how you’ve coped, what side effects you had and how you managed them is very helpful to someone who is about to start treatment.

We can help you share your story to help others.

Back to What happens after treatment?

Follow-up assessment

You have regular check-ups with your specialist doctor or nurse after treatment for DCIS. Women have yearly mammograms to begin with.