As I have spent the last few days doing a literature search and writing an abstract for the Society of Integrative Oncology Conference this Fall, it reaffirmed the enormity of life changes when one has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course, as a survivor, I know this full well, but when you put pen to paper it takes on even another dimension. I wrote about the many challenges of a breast cancer survivor: anxiety, fatigue, depression, cognitive impairment, nutrition, body image and sexual function issues and spiritual issues. These are common to many survivors of other types of cancer as well.
Fortunately, the American Cancer Society and American Society of Clinical Oncology established the Breast Cancer Survivorship Care Guidelines in 2015. This is a call to action that oncologists and/or primary care physicians should be addressing these issues in their patient follow up visits long into the years of survivorship.
A recent study shows that providing women with skills to manage stress early in their breast cancer treatment can improve their mood and quality of life many years later. Another study done by Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, along with the Benson-Henry Institute revealed that evoking the relaxation response helps alleviate stress and anxiety, reduces pain, boosts your immune system, while also affecting heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation can remove stress and replace it with a dose of inner peace.
Other integrative therapies useful in helping survivors are: yoga, massage, Qigong, acupuncture, creative arts therapy, music therapy, and nutritional counseling. Classes and workshops to learn these modalities are now easy to find, especially if one lives in or near a major city. With that said, it is not too difficult to find access to these integrative therapies even away from large metropolitan areas. If not possible, simply going for a walk and enjoying nature can bring a sense of calm and a feeling of peacefulness.