Life after breast cancer



Follow-up is recommended after treatment for breast cancer to check whether the cancer has recurred, to check for a new primary breast cancer, to monitor for side effects of treatment, and to provide emotional support (which may include referral for counselling).

The main components of follow-up are regular physical examinations and breast imaging tests (mammogram and/or ultrasound).

Maintaining wellbeing after treatment

Maintaining wellbeing after treatment for breast cancer includes maintaining a healthy diet, and physical activity and exercise. A healthy diet involves eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, limiting intake of saturated fats, and limiting alcohol consumption. Exercise has been shown to improve emotional wellbeing and reduce fatigue, even during radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Another benefit is that it can help to reduce the loss in bone density that is associated with menopause.

Complementary and alternative therapies (such as herbs, vitamins and other supplements) are more likely to be used by younger women than older women. Complementary therapies are a range of approaches to care aimed at enhancing quality of life and improving wellbeing.

Complementary therapies may be used alongside conventional treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies or targeted therapies. Complementary therapies may include acupuncture, relaxation therapy and meditation, gentle exercise, guided imagery, music or art therapy, massage, aromatherapy, dietary therapies and some support group programs.

Alternative therapies are treatments that are taken instead of conventional approaches to treatment. There is little evidence that alternative therapies are effective. Most have not been studied scientifically and some have been examined and found to be ineffective.  

It’s important for women to talk to your treatment team before starting any complementary therapies to check that they won’t interact with conventional treatments.