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Breast Cancer - Treatment Overview

Coping with emotions

When you first find out that you have cancer, you may feel scared or angry. Or you may feel very calm. It's normal to have a wide range of feelings and for those feelings to change quickly. Some people find that it helps to talk about their feelings with family and friends.

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.

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

Body image and sexual problems

Your feelings about your body may change after treatment for breast cancer. Managing body image issues may involve talking openly about your concerns with your partner and discussing your feelings with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to refer you to groups that can offer support and information.

Sexual problems can be caused by the physical or emotional effects of cancer or its treatment. Some women may feel less sexual pleasure or lose their desire to be intimate. For more information, see the topic Sexual Problems in Women.

Follow-up care

After the initial treatment for breast cancer, you may see your family doctor, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, or surgeon at regularly scheduled intervals, depending on your individual situation. Your checkups will happen less often as time goes by.

As part of your follow-up, you may have regular physical exams and mammograms.

It's also important to do regular self-exams. That way, if the cancer does come back, you have a better chance of finding it early enough for successful treatment. Early signs of recurrence may appear in the incision area itself, the opposite breast, under your arm, or in the area above the collarbone.

If new problems develop, you may have additional tests, such as blood tests, bone scans, chest X-rays, CT scans, or MRI tests.

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