Section 6: Health and Beauty

HIGHLIGHTS

  • This section will provide you with information and resources on physical activity, nutrition and healthy eating, and how you can look and feel good inside and out during and after your breast cancer treatment.

  • There are many benefits to physical activity for young breast cancer survivors including: maintaining bone health, managing stress, moderating weight, and improving overall quality of life.

  • Healthy eating and nutrition are important in taking care of your body, helping you feel healthy and beautiful, and improving your quality of life.

  • You can learn to cope with changes to your body by considering how your treatment may affect your physical appearance and making plans to deal with those changes before they actually happen.

  • While it is normal to feel stressed and anxious about the physical changes you are experiencing, it is important to keep in mind that you are strong, beautiful, and capable of making it through your cancer journey.

  • You may experience several changes in your body during and after breast cancer treatment, including hair loss, change in hair texture, skin color, and scarring.

  • If you are going to undergo chemotherapy and anticipate hair loss, you may want to find a quality wig shop in your area prior to undergoing treatment.

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SUMMARY

HEALTH AND BEAUTY AFTER BREAST CANCER

The purpose of this chapter is to provide you with information and resources to help you take control of your health and well-being moving forward. It is important that you consider some of the common concerns that young breast cancer survivors may have, including getting enough physical activity, maintaining good nutrition and healthy eating, and looking and feeling good during and after your breast treatment.

GET MOVING, BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE

Exercise is especially important to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight after breast cancer. Being overweight can increase your risk of cancer returning or of dying from breast cancer. After breast cancer treatment, women tend to gain some fat, so exercise can help maintain or increase lean muscle mass in your body. Not every woman is healthy enough for vigorous exercise, however. Before starting an exercise program, be sure to get your doctor’s approval.

As you become physically active, it is important that you listen to your body. Some breast cancer treatments can leave you feeling nauseated or extremely tired. As you embark upon an exercise plan, make sure that you get a lot of rest during and after treatment. Drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

EAT HEALTHY, NUTRITIOUS FOODS

Eating healthy foods is one positive way to take control of your life and your well-being. It will likely require a major shift in thinking – you might associate home cooked soul food with family, love, and companionship, but healthy foods can bring about the same feelings of warmth and comfort, if not more. Good nutrition allows your body to function at its best, and when your body feels good, you will notice a change to your overall mood and attitude too.

The most important thing to remember is to limit your total calories so that you do not gain weight, or if you are already overweight, with a goal of losing some pounds. What you eat is also important, however. Some common sense guidelines are to choose fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and to avoid saturated fats (like lard or fatty cuts of meat) and processed sugars.

HOW TO DEAL WITH HAIR LOSS

One of the biggest and most emotional changes in women’s appearance during treatment is hair loss. You may lose your hair during chemotherapy, and your hair may grow back with a completely different texture, color, or thickness once your chemotherapy treatment is complete. It is also possible that your hair could not grow back after treatment is over. Hair loss and hair changes following treatment have the potential to make an already sensitive issue even more challenging. However, it can also be a time for self-reflection, acceptance, and personal growth as you venture through your cancer journey.

Some important things to consider during treatment that may help your scalp and hair:

  • Keep your head covered as often as you can and wear sunscreen to protect the scalp. Ask your physician to recommend a sunscreen that will work for you.

  • You lose body heat through your head, and without hair as an insulator, you will lose body heat more quickly than before.

  • Do not put any added stress on your hair—avoid dye or other chemical treatments.

  • Massage your scalp thoroughly each day to exfoliate and improve circulation.

  • Chemotherapy can change the moisture levels of your skin and scalp, so you may need to use creams and lotions that are more hydrating than usual. Using a mild, pH-balanced shampoo is essential, and choosing a mild moisturizer is also beneficial. This will also help to nourish newly exposed skin on the scalp.


Click here for more in-depth information on Eating Healthy, Getting Comfortable with Body Changes, and Tips and Ideas for Physical Activity.


Section 6: Health and Beauty

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African American YBCS Survivor Quote

“Post treatment, I was extremely tired and often felt weak yet restless. Cleaning up my diet and working in more colorful fruits and vegetables gave me the energy and nutrition my body needed to complete the healing process. I read labels more carefully and try and substitute for foods that are healthier or make my own ‘slow foods’ instead of relying on fast food. If I have dessert at one meal, I don’t have it again on the same day. It’s about conscious choices and diet discipline.”