It is intimidating and challenging to brace through the challenges of seeking treatment and then making lifestyle changes post therapy. Most of us will have to make the choice of living through the cycles of treatment. A careful planning, perhaps even making some hard choices are extreme scenarios. Albeit it is a choice that we make to living a – wholesome life. There are these day to day issues that are bound to be experienced, staying organized, making lifestyle changes, managing symptoms and side-effects, financial and more.

Day to day matters

Paying for care

Despite securing health insurance the costs associated with breast cancer treatment, follow up care and associated activities can be a strain for certain individuals and their families. If you had to take time off from work and your income is lower, these living expenses can be challenging to cover. Insurance plays an important role, if a person is at increased risk for developing breast cancer for that matter in general a health insurance is advisable to take care of the cost involved in treatment. The bridging gap or in case of inability to bear treatment expenses the medical team treating can help by providing a list of organizations that provide financial assistance for medicines and care (http://cancerindia.org.in/financial-aid-and-resources/), as well as local organizations that offer financial assistance for your practical needs such as transportation and food. Many pharmaceutical companies have set up special funds to help pay for the cost of their medicines.

Tips to Lower Medicine Costs

Ascertain insurance coverage covers prescription for medications and other essentials (nutritional supplements, rehabilitation care)
Request the doctor to prescribe generic medicine than branded ones -they will cost much less
Oral medicines may cost higher than IV form, weigh in the choice for IV meds and all other costs (transport, feasibility of a hospital visit. The insurance cover may have different pricing for different routes (oral, IV, patches) of administration
It is important to connect with people even contact the local pharmacy /distribution center for discounts or options which can also reduce costs.

Commitment for continued care

Breast cancer treatment is long term with initial treatments going for months followed by continued medications and follow-ups for 5 to 10 years (to make sure there is a low risk of cancer resurgence).

Side effects that should be known

There are several types of hormonal therapy medicines. Tamoxifen may cause hot flashes and increase the risk of blood clots and stroke. Aromatase inhibitors may cause muscle and joint aches and pains. Less common but more severe side effects of aromatase inhibitors are heart problems, osteoporosis, and broken bones. 

While the side effects of hormonal therapy can be painful, difficult, and annoying, they are overshadowed by the reality that hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer can come back. Hormonal therapy after surgery reduces that risk.

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Side effect of breast cancer treatment Solutions
Nausea Seek doctor consult/ portion control, avoid greasy food/ acupuncture, visualisation, meditation
Hot flashes Seek doctor consult/ avoid triggers like hot showers, synthetic clothes, spicy foods, stress etc., / complimentary help- acupuncture, meditation, yoga
Muscle and Joint aches and pains Seek doctor consult/ pain medications/ weight balance/ healthy foods/ acupuncture, mindfulness
Depression Seek doctor consult/ practise gratitude/ get some sunlight/ eat healthy/ exercise/ mindfulness, meditation
Blood clots Seek immediate consult/ awareness of side effects
Osteoporosis Seek immediate medical consult/ supplements/ exercise to prevent osteoporosis/ healthy food/ prevent falls
Fractures Seek immediate medical help/ rest and rehabilitation/ healthy diet/ prevent falls
Heart problems Seek immediate medical help/ awareness of side effects
Stroke Seek immediate medical help/ awareness of side effects

Tips and reminders for selfcare

Keep a diary for fatigue, nausea, hot flashes, unmotivated and depressed feelings - determine when it is better and worse
Maintain a routine- eat, sleep, physical activities, meditative practices around same time every day, this establishes a rhythm.
Sleep adequate number of hours
Enroll into a support group, it is fine even if it is an online one during Covid-19
Create a support system around to manage and discuss challenges and to celebrate small improvements
Recognize and appreciate even small help from caregivers and friends, gratitude makes a huge impact
Be kind to yourself, keep list and calendar for appointments, medications, emergency contacts
Share your story spread the word on breast cancer – be the person who wants to change, be the change

Embrace change and knowing that you are not alone provides a reasonable amount of assurance while opting for choices (breast implants or wearables or none) that can provide self-confidence to brace situations and feel whole.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ajay Sharma

An Emergency Medicine Physician – Scientist – Author, has over 2 decades of professional experience in multi-cultural environment offering a holistic approach to health care issues. He provides services related to medical device development, validation, mentoring and reporting. Passionate about evidence –based approach to health care, health tech, education, preventive care and food.


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