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Breast Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent - Home Treatment

Managing side effects

The side effects of breast cancer treatment can be serious. Healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep and exercise may help control your symptoms. Your doctor may also give you medicines to help you with certain side effects, such as medicines to control and prevent nausea and vomiting.

  • Home treatment for fatigue includes tips on how to manage tiredness that doesn't go away with rest or sleep. For example, if taking a shower is a priority, and if mornings are when you have the most energy, take your shower in the morning.
  • Home treatment for nausea or vomiting includes watching for and treating early signs of dehydration, such as having a dry mouth or feeling lightheaded when you stand up. Eating smaller meals may help. So can a little bit of ginger candy or ginger tea.
  • Home treatment for diarrhea includes resting your stomach and being alert for signs of dehydration. Check with your doctor before using any nonprescription medicines for your diarrhea. Be sure to drink enough fluids.
  • Home treatment for constipation includes making sure that you drink enough fluids and eat fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day. Don't use a laxative without first talking to your doctor.

Other symptoms that can be treated at home include:

  • Sleep problems. If you have trouble sleeping, some tips for managing sleep problems may help.
  • Hair loss may be unavoidable. But you can decrease irritation of your scalp by using mild shampoos and avoiding hair products that damage hair.
  • Stress.Cancer and its treatment can be stressful. But there are many steps you can take to manage stress.
  • Pain. Not all forms of cancer or cancer treatment cause pain. But if you do have pain, there are many home treatments that can help.
  • Swelling of your arm. You can reduce your risk of this swelling by protecting your arm on the side where you had surgery. Let your doctor know right away if you have swelling or redness in that arm. This swelling is called lymphedema (say "limp-fih-DEE-muh").
actionset.gif Lymphedema: Managing Lymphedema

Managing stress

Having cancer and being treated for it can be very stressful, especially when it is metastatic or recurrent cancer. There are steps you can take to reduce your stress. Some people find that it helps to talk about their feelings with family and friends. Others find that spending time alone is what they need.

If your emotional reaction to cancer gets in the way of your ability to make decisions about your health, it's important to talk with your doctor. Your cancer treatment center may offer psychological or financial services. And a local chapter of the American Cancer Society can help you find a support group.

Body image

Cancer or cancer treatments can cause changes that may be hard to adjust to, such as changes in your body image or sexual problems. Managing body image issues may involve talking openly about your feelings with your partner and discussing your concerns with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to refer you to groups that can offer support and information.

For more information about learning how to live with metastatic or recurrent cancer, read "Coping With Advanced Cancer" or "When Cancer Returns" from the National Cancer Institute. These booklets are available online at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/advancedcancer and at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/when-cancer-returns.

Having cancer can change your life in many ways. For support in managing these changes, see the topic Getting Support When You Have Cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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