Rebuilding body and soul after breast cancer treatment

February 29, 2016| Health and Wellbeing /

For breast cancer patients, the end of active treatment signals the beginning of the next phase of their recovery. It can be a time of intense physical challenges and powerful emotions, when the support of expert clinicians and others going through the same experience can make all the difference.

After an extended period of intense physical and emotional strain during breast cancer treatment many women are left drained, struggling with strong feelings about their physical presentation and plagued by fear of recurrence. Personal relationships have often suffered, some have concerns around fertility and parenting and many are under financial strain, unsure as to when or if they will be able to return to work and careers.

For a large number of these women, the end of active treatment is the first opportunity they’ve had to really process what’s happened to them and take charge of their bodies and their future.

Breast cancer rehabilitation - meeting physical and emotional needs
Attending a breast cancer rehabilitation program can improve a patient’s physical function and quality of life, helping them build strength and endurance, regain their independence, manage stress and transition back into the daily activities that matter to them.

“The goal of rehabilitation is to maximise recovery and minimise the chance of reoccurrence,” says Catherine Carracher, Manager of the Enhance Breast Cancer Rehabilitation Program at Epworth.

“There can be a bit if a stigma in the community that rehabilitation is for older patients who can’t go home after an acute stay in hospital,” she says. “When in actual fact many programs, including ours, have a strong focus on helping younger, ambulant patients transition back into their lives post-treatment.”

Unlike a straight support group, rehabilitation provides patients with access to a network of specialist clinicians including psychologists, dieticians and occupational therapists who are able to help them navigate their way through the next phase of their recovery.For many, this will involve learning how to implement lifestyle changes around diet and exercise capable of limiting the recurrence of certain cancers but also reduce the risk of other serious health issues including cardiovascular disease. Eating better, losing weight and finding a regular exercise program that works for them can also has a positive affect on body image and self-confidence. 

Equally important is the camaraderie between the women and the support and insight they offer each other. Sharing the experience with a range of other women, all at different stages, can be immensely reassuring. Rehabilitation often becomes the place where women can talk most freely about their feelings, knowing they will be heard and understood.

The end of treatment can be a time of great uncertainty. Encouraging women to access support which addresses their physical, personal, social, emotional and environmental needs can improve their chances of a full recovery and help them find the strength to embrace life once again.

Patients may be referred to the Enhance program through a GP, surgeon, breast cancer nurse or oncologist. If you would like more information, please call Epworth Rehabilitation Camberwell (03) 9809 2444 or Epworth Rehabilitation Hawthorn (03) 9415 5777. 

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