Breast Cancer Survivorship

Breast Cancer Survivorship

At the end of active cancer treatment, we offer survivorship services. These include our Transitions program for breast cancer patients. The program’s breast health nurse practitioner will make sure you have:

  • A summary of your diagnosis, providers and treatments.
  • A clear plan for follow-up care, rehabilitation services and initial appointments.
  • Access to help with personal, work or financial difficulties.
  • Support for managing fears and challenges.
  • Wellness information.

Why survivorship services?

Many breast cancer patients find the shift from active treatment to survivorship jarring. After months of frequent appointments and coping with a serious illness, you may feel like you’re suddenly on your own.

You also may be dealing with physical, emotional or other challenges. You may find that moving forward is more difficult than you expected. The Transitions program aims to ease this passage by making sure you have the services and support you need.

How the Transitions program works

You will meet with the breast health nurse practitioner, who is an expert in breast care. She will go over a summary of your care, a plan for moving forward and resources for support. She will also discuss your needs and concerns. Typically, this appointment is paired with another follow-up appointment for convenience and cost savings.

Care summary

The breast health nurse practitioner will give you a complete summary of:

  • Your diagnosis and pathology results, including cancer type, stage, receptor status and how many lymph nodes were removed, if  any.
  • The members of your care team and their phone numbers.
  • Information about any genetics testing, relevant family history and other medical problems.
  • Details on all the treatments you received, including reconstruction, and when.

This summary gives you a written record you can share if you relocate or change providers so your follow-up care can proceed seamlessly.

Follow-up care

The breast health nurse practitioner will go over follow-up care and arrange appointments for the first six to 12 months. She will also go over follow-up care for the next five years. Your care summary will include a schedule that covers whether and how often you need:

  • Medical history/physical exams
  • Imaging such as mammograms, MRIs and bone-density scans
  • Pelvic exams
  • Genetic counseling
  • Self-exams

Rehabilitation services

The nurse practitioner will also make sure you have access to any cancer rehabilitation services you need to manage side effects of treatment. This could include help with:

  • Pain
  • Cognitive issues (“chemo brain")
  • Balance
  • Fatigue
  • Neuropathy
  • Lymphedema

Managing fears and challenges

The breast health nurse practitioner will talk with you about common issues, including:

  • Fears about cancer returning. You might be anxious about an ache or pain and unsure about when to seek medical attention.
  • Feelings of loss. Many patients are surprised by how different things are after cancer. You might find yourself grieving for  your old life and struggling to adjust to your new one. Though many women ultimately feel stronger and wiser after breast cancer, this insight usually develops over years.
  • Financial problems, strained family relationships or problems at work related to time off.

The nurse practitioner will offer perspective on what’s normal. She will help you determine whether you might benefit from counseling, medication or a visit with your primary care doctor.

She will also arrange a phone call with an OHSU social worker who can help you with personal, financial or work issues if needed.

Wellness

The breast health nurse practitioner will talk with you about staying healthy to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back. This includes:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Reducing stress

Other survivorship services

OHSU also offers survivorship services for breast cancer patients through our radiation medicine and community clinics. Talk with your care team about which program makes the most sense for you. See our Cancer Survivorship and Our Team pages to learn more.