Surviving Breast Cancer

Christine Duffy, MD, MPH and Camille Higel-McGovern, NP
Surviving breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States except for skin cancer.  

  • About one in eight women, or 12 percent, will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • This year alone, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. In addition, another 48,530 women are expected to be diagnosed with new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.  
  • As of January 2020, more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer are living in the U.S. This includes women who are currently being treated as well as those who have completed treatment.

What is survivorship?

The term “survivorship” is sometimes used to refer to someone who has no signs of cancer after completing treatment. However, it is more helpful to think of survivorship as including everyone who is living with a cancer diagnosis.

When thought of in this way, survivorship for women diagnosed with breast cancer starts at the day of diagnosis.  We see this as a positive approach, as it allows every patient at any stage to benefit from what a survivorship program has to offer.

What is the Survivorship Program and how does it help patients?

The goal of a survivorship program is to address the physical, psychosocial and economic issues that come with cancer including:

  • Side effects from their disease as well as various treatments.
  • Changes in their body due to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Anxiety related to fear of recurrence.
  • Transitioning back to work.
  • Financial strains related to illness.

The Survivorship Program's team

The cancer survivorship program at the Lifespan Cancer Institute brings together specialists with knowledge and skill working with cancer survivors.

The care plan

For individuals diagnosed with cancer, this detailed document is tailored to each patient’s personal cancer treatment history. It contains all the individual’s treatment information, including their cancer staging, the treatments they received, their medical care team, potential long-term effects of their treatment, surveillance recommendations and helpful tips.  A copy of each plan is given to the patient as well as their primary care provider. This helps patients ensure they have access to all the information pertinent to their care at any time, and with any provider who may be caring for them.

The OWLS clinic

Our Oncology, Wellness, Lifestyle and Survivorship clinic is headed by an internist and a nurse practitioner with expertise and knowledge in survivorship care. The team also includes a breast navigator and pharmacist on site, with remote nutrition services. The OWLS team creates a “living care plan” after consultation with a multidisciplinary team of specialists who are experts in survivorship care. The OWLS team works with you to help coordinate information between primary care providers and oncologists to implement the living care team recommendations.

The resources

In addition to our dedicated team of experts, the care plans and OWLS clinic, the survivorship program offers many other services, including free gym memberships and personal training, social work and psychiatry services. It also helps patients access resources in their community.

Life after cancer

Some advice for survivors.

  • It’s so important that you give yourself some time to get back to where you were before your diagnosis. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and take things slowly.
  • Be sure to reach out if you are struggling with anxiety or depression. Help is here for you.
  • Don’t forget about other health issues like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol – be sure to see your primary care provider regularly and stay up to date with important screening tests.
  • Last but not least, exercise and eat well!

Get more information on our survivorship program here.
 

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