Cancer newbie

I am post menopausal and waiting to be placed on drugs, probably Anastrazole. I am recovering from a lumpectomy and waiting for an Oncologists app and radiotherapy. I think I only need 5 days worth but don’t know yet. Firstly- what after effects have people had from radiotherapy? I am a keen swimmer/ scuba diver and so want to get back in the water as soon as I can but is your skin affected? 

I came off oestrogen only HRT upon diagnosis and I am starting to have the symptoms creeping back including sweats, joint aches, lethargy and mood swings. What is recommended for improving these symptoms? I was thinking collagen but don’t want it to affect the Anastrazole.

Hello @Scubagirl  

I’ve been reading some of your other posts and I’m so pleased to read that your surgery was successful and you are moving on ready for the next stage of treatment 

You sound like a very active lady and it is completely understandable that you want to “get going again” following diagnosis and treatment. 
Your diagnosis and treatment plan sound very like mine (although I was diagnosed at 50, had 15 RT sessions and I’m on Tamoxifen) and there is absolutely no reason why your ABC (after breast cancer) life won’t resemble your BBC (before breast cancer) life but there will almost certainly be some subtle changes, and the best thing I suggest to you at this time is patience! Please allow yourself to take each day as it comes and listen to your body: I can’t give you any definitive timescales on getting back to the activities you love, but generally the things that will hold you back in the short term will be healing to scars, muscle soreness and stiffness (keep doing those exercises personally I didn’t do much stretching BBC but now absolutely love doing my yoga) some skin irritation from the RT (drink lots and lots of water and moisturise the area regularly: I was on 3 times a day) but the fatigue is the biggest thing both after surgery and RT. Your body is being put through a lot and fatigue is the reaction to it going into “healing mode”. It can be combatted with regular daily exercise (little and often far better than going all out one day and being wiped the next) resting and not beating yourself up for not being able to do the things you did before. 
In terms of help going forward especially managing the drugs and no HRT I can highly recommend several Instagrammers (personally I didn’t really do Instagram BBC however there are some really helpful resources on there). Top of the list is Dr Liz O’Riordan and Dr Annice Mukherjee (the.hormone.doc) both doctors who have had BC themselves both with excellent books, Dr Mukherjee’s the Guide to the Menopause was my bible. There are also some with other ABC advice like tickingoffbreastcancer herspirit and getmeback 

Wishing you all the best for a continued good recovery and for your treatment beyond

AM xxx 

Hi @Scubagirl  

I had lumpectomy and SNB followed by radiotherapy last year and the first question I asked was when would I be able to swim in the sea again. They advised me to wait at least 1 month to allow my skin to recover and I think it was 6-7 weeks before I had my first dip .

My breast was red in one area and dry around the nipple for a good 3 months and also itchy. Swimming didn’t seem to make it any worse but I needed the extra couple of weeks both for my skin to improve and because I did have fatigue. I moisturized 3 times a day every day . Stretching is really important after radiotherapy to prevent contraction and I always do a set of the post - op breast exercises before every swim. I do find that I still have tightness in some areas and cold water can make those areas tighter still so when you get back in the water don’t try to do everything you used to do all at once .Take extra care to protect your skin from the sun/ cover up while you’re in the water . Cold water swimming does help with controlling hot flushes as well and I found a bit of exercise before bedtime ( 10 mins of HIT ) helped prevent night sweats - it’s gets you feeling hot and sweaty and the sweating then cools you down just in time to hit the sack.  .

Basically yes you will be able to do it all again and fairly soon but you just need to have a bit of patience ( which is hard I know ) .

Joanne x

Hi Scubagirl  

Thank you for posting. It’s understandable that you have questions about your adjuvant (after surgery) treatment.  

Radiotherapy does have some side effects such as skin irritation and fatigue. Side effects differ from person to person and, as @adoptedmanc says, moisturising the skin regularly can be helpful. The treatment team delivering your radiotherapy will talk to you about how to look after your skin during treatment. You may want to ask them about swimming and scuba diving after the radiotherapy.   

Exercise has many benefits after breast cancer treatment, and it is good to hear that you would like to get back to the exercise you enjoy however it is important to start slowly and build up gradually.  

Stopping HRT can be a difficult time and it sounds as though your menopausal symptoms have returned. Although going back on HRT would not be recommended after a breast cancer diagnosis, there are other ways to manage the symptoms, and these will vary based on the symptoms you have. As you are also due to start anastrozole, you might find it helpful to talk to your breast care nurse or treatment team. They may be able to refer you to a specialist menopause clinic to discuss the options with you. You may also find our Instagram live about managing side effects of hormone therapies helpful.   

@adoptedmanc has suggested some resources to look at, you may also find the Menopause Matters website helpful.   

Many people ask about vitamin and herb supplements, such as collagen, as they want to do as much as possible to be healthy. There is often the belief that vitamins and herbs are safe as they are considered natural.     

There is much we don’t know about supplements and herbal remedies.  Herbal treatments don’t have to comply with the same regulations or rigorous testing that conventional medicines do. For many products there is a lack of research to support their use, and some can interfere with conventional medicines including cancer treatments.   

It’s not possible for us to say if it is safe to take collagen supplements. There is research looking at collagen levels and breast cancer, but it is not clear if this would mean that collagen supplements should be avoided. We would always recommend talking to your treatment team or hospital pharmacist before taking any supplement.   

For many people, it’s not always ‘back to normal’ when they finish hospital treatment for primary breast cancer. For some, it can mean leaving behind the routine and support they’ve become used to. Adapting to life after treatment can be difficult and often the need for information and support continues. Coping with the shock of a diagnosis, treatment and side effects, and worries about recurrence can make it difficult to readjust to everyday life again.  

You may be interested in our resources that are particularly for those who have come to the end of their main hospital treatment. These are known as our Moving Forward services and include our  Moving Forward booklet and Moving Forward courses.  

The courses are open to people who have had a primary breast cancer diagnosis and have finished their hospital-based treatment within the last two years.   

Through supportive, open conversations in a safe, confidential space, you’ll connect with people who understand. And you’ll find the tools you need to feel more empowered, confident and in control to begin to move forward with your life. 

You can attend Moving Forward either at our face-to-face course or take part by joining online. Find a course near you or register for an online course via the links above or call us on 03457 077 1893.   

We offer a range of supportive services which may be of interest to you. For more information about all of these services please see the information in the link.   

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Breast Care Nurse   

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