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Breast Cancer in Women
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Breast cancer starts in the tissue or ducts of the breast. It can cause a lump, deformity of the breast, or discharge from the nipple. Breast cancer cells may spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, and brain.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- You have chest pain.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded or short of breath.
Call your doctor or oncologist if:
- You have a fever.
- You have any new or different pain.
- You are vomiting and cannot keep food or liquids down.
- You are depressed or feel that you cannot cope with your illness.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Antinausea medicine may help calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
You can check your breasts for lumps and other changes. If you have monthly periods, examine your breasts after your period is over. Contact your oncologist if you notice any breast changes. Ask for more information about how to do breast self-exams. Your healthcare provider can tell you how often to do the exams.
Have mammograms as directed:
Ask if and how often you need a mammogram. If you are having monthly periods, schedule your mammogram for the first 2 weeks following your monthly period.
Maintain a healthy weight:
Extra body weight increases the risk for new or returning breast cancer. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy weight is for you. He or she can help you create a safe weight loss plan, if needed.
Do not smoke:
Nicotine can damage blood vessels and make it more difficult to manage breast cancer. Smoking also increases your risk for new or returning cancer and delays healing after treatment. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
Limit or do not drink alcohol as directed:
Your oncologist may tell you to limit or not drink alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk for new or returning breast cancer. If you choose to drink, limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
Exercise as directed:
Ask your oncologist about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise may help decrease the side effects of treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, and weakness. It may also help improve your mood. Stop exercising if you feel pain in your chest, have trouble breathing, or feel dizzy. Do not exercise if you have a fever or if you had anticancer medicines through an IV in the last 24 hours.
Eat a variety of healthy foods:
Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
Drink liquids as directed:
Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration. You will also need to replace fluid if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.
Follow up with your doctor or oncologist as directed:
You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment and follow-up. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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