Transitioning from a cancer patient to a cancer survivor signifies that you have physically healed from cancer. It does not mean you’ve physically healed from the effects of chemo. You’re probably still experiencing side effects. Survivorship also doesn’t mean that you have healed emotionally. Emotional wellbeing is much harder to measure. And right now, during yet another life transition, you and your family could be experiencing a lot of different feelings.
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Let’s be clear about one important fact: Your medical history and health concerns are entirely your business. When you were diagnosed with cancer, you may have decided not to share that news with your co-workers. Now that you’re a cancer survivor planning your return to work, you need to decide how you will address the subject of your cancer in a way you’re comfortable with.
Keeping your cancer diagnosis a secret from co-workers after you return to work usually isn’t practical. More than likely, you’ll look different when you return to work than you did when you left. You may be wearing a wig or your hair may be growing back. You may have lost a substantial amount of weight. Some symptoms of cancer treatment can’t be hidden. If you don’t provide an explanation for your physical changes, your co-workers will probably worry about your overall health. When you do tell them, they’ll probably have plenty of questions - mostly out of concern for you!
Many cancer patients face hair loss, also known as alopecia, as a result of undergoing treatment. While this is a common side effect of cancer treatment, losing one’s hair can still be a significant emotional challenge.
The good news is that this change in appearance usually doesn’t last forever. Most cancer patients see hair growth begin shortly after they are finished with their treatments, but until that time many people turn to head coverings such as wigs, turbans, and scarves to help them feel more comfortable during this stage.
Chemotherapy plays an important role in most cancer patients’ treatment regimens – because it’s very effective at killing fast-growing cancer cells throughout the body. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also kills fast-growing healthy cells. As a result, many cancer patients experience both short- and long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
Most people are familiar with the short-term side effects of chemo, which often include:
Because lung cancer develops in the lungs, as you’d probably expect, its most common symptoms involve the lungs. Persistent coughing, coughing up blood or excess mucus, shortness of breath, and chest pain are all common signs of lung cancer. The presence of these symptoms doesn’t definitively mean you have lung cancer, though, as they can also be caused by other conditions. That’s why it’s important to be evaluated by your doctor sooner rather than later.
Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are part of your immune system, and they let you know when your body is fighting an infection by becoming enlarged or sensitive to the touch. They also function as an early warning system for some types of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer.
What are Lymph Nodes?
Lymph is a clear fluid that circulates throughout your body, bringing nutrients to cells and carrying away bacteria and waste products. This fluid flows through a special system of tiny vessels in your body, passing through small bean-shaped filtering organs called lymph nodes. Some nodes are as large as an inch across, while others are as small as a pinhead.
When you have cancer, even the most joyous of holidays can leave you feeling sad. On top of all the physical stresses, the thought of missing out on get-togethers and family meals can make it hard to get into the holiday spirit.
Of course, you should first talk to your oncology team before the holidays to determine what would be reasonable for you. Sometimes travel isn’t recommended. But for others, it can be done as long as you have a plan for what to do if you experience new pain or side effects while away from home.
Even people in perfect health often feel exhausted and overwhelmed during the holiday season; that feeling is often magnified when you’re battling cancer. You may not have the stamina to battle Black Friday crowds, deck the halls and entertain as lavishly as you have in years past, and that’s OK. If you’re a cancer patient try not to overexert yourself, but don’t isolate yourself either. Here are six ways cancer patients can manage and even enjoy the holidays.
The mammogram is an important breast cancer screening and diagnostic tool for women. This highly effective, non-invasive, and inexpensive procedure detects breast cancer and saves lives. The American Cancer Society recommends women start breast cancer screening at age 45. However, research has found mammograms are most beneficial for women age 50 and older. Regular mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 14% among 50- to 60-year-olds and 33% among 60- to 69-year-olds.
The ripple effect of cancer touches every aspect of a life, emotional, psychological, social and financial. At Compass Oncology we know we achieve the best care for our patients when we give them support in every way. Compass Oncology has a team of oncology social workers that are all about providing support for patients and their caregivers outside of their actual cancer treatment plan.
What makes our oncology social workers unique is that they are active members of your cancer care team who are always ready to assist. The support they provide takes many forms from the practical to the emotional to the spiritual. Their focus is on the issues that are so important to quality of life during and after cancer treatment. We encourage our patients to take advantage of this resource.