Life After Cancer

There is life after breast cancer. Our goal is to help you not only survive, but to thrive. Here are a few things that you need to remember to begin to live again after your treatment:



  1. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Stay present in the moment.
  2. Make yourself the priority in your life. You can’t care for others, until you care for yourself.
  3. Stay centered on self. Not self-centered.
  4. Rid your life of energy vampires.
  5. Follow your passion and the universe will conspire in your favor.
  6. Happiness and joy in life are found on the journey, not the destination.


Post Operative Garments

Many women do not realize that their insurance plan will cover post-operative bras, garments and/or camisoles. After a mastectomy, a woman can receive an artificial breast prosthesis and special bra, but many women do not know that their insurance will pay for the post-operative bras and garments that are needed after lumpectomy, during radiation therapy or partial breast prosthesis during reconstruction after mastectomy. Ask your doctor or nurse navigator for more information.
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Holistic Therapies

For more information regarding access to holistic therapies through our practice, visit The Healing Consciousness Foundation.


Acupuncture therapy promotes health and alleviates pain and suffering. The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of “vital energy,” “energetic balance” and “energetic imbalance.” Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling through the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this “vital energy” within its pathways, known as “meridians” and “channels.”

Energy Therapy

Energy therapy is the gentle art of clearing cellular memory through the human energy field. This type of therapy promotes health, balance and relaxation. Energy therapy is based on the concept of connection between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms of our lives and is found in many holistic healing methods. It uses focused healing energy to clear blocks that accumulate in the body, which hinder the natural flow of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. The healing focus promotes personal empowerment, self-healing and spiritual growth.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a healing discipline. This is powerful and effective by itself, or is easily integrated with other techniques. Imagery enhances your healing response to many health-related conditions, imbalances or diseases. You may engage in personal imagery or be guided by a therapist (guided imagery).


Hypnotherapy applies focused concentration, which facilitates an altered, yet natural, state of awareness to enhance healing. This state is similar to pre-sleep or pre-awakening, focusing on an engrossing book or listening to favorite music. Hypnotherapy circumvents conscious barriers to gain access to your subconscious processes, though your conscious mind is able to respond appropriately.


In this hands-on therapy, essential oils are applied to your body for emotional and physical benefits.


Meditation is a method of quieting the mind to center in a state of peace. To enter a meditative state, choose a single point of attention upon which to focus. The most common focal point is your breath. Other practices include, but are not limited to: focusing on a single image (such as a candle flame or a mandala), repeating a mantra or tone or performing a repetitive activity which frees the mind (such as walking, washing dishes, dusting, etc.)


Reiki is a method of sharing focused energy, usually by gentle touch, to promote and enhance both physical and emotional healing. It also invites us to reclaim peace, balance and vitality. In fact, the word “reiki” means “spiritually-guided or universal life force energy.”


Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 500 years. The word “yoga” came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate.” Yoga is about the union of your own consciousness and the universal consciousness.

Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for you to be in harmony with yourself and the environment, you have to integrate the body, the mind and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, your emotion, action and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance. It is done through meditation, exercise and breath.

Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that breath is the source of life. In yoga, students gain breathing control as they slowly increase their breathing. By focusing on breathing, you can prepare your mind for the next step.
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How Survivors Become Thrivers

Breast cancer is a diagnosis that brings about many physical changes, but there is no greater change then the attitude a survivor has as they move forward in their life. We strive to not only have you survive your cancer, but thrive afterwards.

Watch Dr. Beth DuPree’s presentation on “How Survivors Become Thrivers” HERE. This talk has been presented at a number of conferences across the country.
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Support Groups

Holy Redeemer & The Healing Consciousness Foundation offer a number of support groups to help you on your breast cancer journey:

CaRES: Cancer Resources Education & Support

2 p.m. – 3 p.m., 2nd Thursday of each month

Holy Redeemer Cancer Center
1648 Huntingdon Pike, 1st Floor
Meadowbrook, PA 19046

Organized by the Cancer Center, these sessions provide a safe place to share feelings, receive and provide support, information, reassurance and encouragement. This program is open to all cancer patients at any stage of illness, for their caregivers and/or significant others.

To register, please call (215) 938-3559

Breast Friends

Current Members: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., 1st Thursday of each month

3300 Tillman Dr.
Bensalem, PA 19020

This support group is intended for women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Meetings focus on providing women and men with educational information and supportive services.

For questions, call Connie Cifelli at 609-731-0524.

Breast Friends
New Members: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., 4th Thursday of each month

45 Second Street Pike
Southampton, PA 18966

This support group is intended for women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Meetings focus on providing women and men with educational information and supportive services.

For questions, call Barb Perugini at 215- 738-1707 or Diane Manni at 215-620-8756.

Breast Friends
Young Members
: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., 3rd Thursday of each month

45 Second Street Pike
Southampton, PA 18966

This group is intended for those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40.  Meetings focus on providing men and women with educational information and peer support.

For questions, call Patti Joyce at 267-207-1688.

Meta Friends

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., the Meta Friends meet the 1st and the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

45 Second Street Pike
Southampton, PA 18966

This special support group is intended for women and men whose breast cancer is Stage IV. Please feel free to familiarize yourself with our facilitator, Dr. Pam Ginsberg. You can find out more about her on her website: or call at 215-340-0608.

Living in My Genes

45 Second Street  Pike
Southampton, PA 18966

Come join with other women and men who share concerns about their genetic susceptibility to various cancers.

Group has been put on hold until the Genetic Counselor position has been filled.
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Living With Lymphedema

Women who’ve been treated for breast cancer may be at risk for arm, breast and chest swelling. This is called lymphedema. The majority of women and men treated for breast cancer will not develop lymphedema, but some will. The risk of lymphedema is higher for women who have complete axillary node dissection surgery and radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.

Our bodies have a network of lymph nodes and lymph vessels that collect clear lymph fluid, much like veins collect blood from all parts of the body and carry it through the body. Lymph fluid contains proteins, salts and water, as well as white blood cells, which help fight infections. In the lymph vessels, valves work with body muscles to help move the fluid through the body. Lymph nodes are small collections of tissue that work as filters for harmful substances and help us fight infection.

It is unclear who will get lymphedema. But there are things you can do to try to prevent it. Recognizing it early and starting treatment right away can help manage it.

What is lymphedema?
During surgery for breast cancer, the doctor removes at least one lymph node from the underarm area to see if the cancer has spread. Sometimes, doctors remove more than one. When lymph nodes are removed, the lymph vessels that carry fluid from the arm to the rest of the body are disrupted.

Removing lymph nodes and vessels changes disrupts the lymph fluid on that side of the upper body. This makes it harder for fluid in the chest, breast and arm to flow out of this area. If the remaining lymph vessels can’t drain enough of the fluid from these areas, the excess fluid builds up and causes swelling, or lymphedema. Radiation treatment to the lymph nodes in the underarm can also impact the movement of lymph fluid in the arm and breast area in the same way; therefore, increasing the risk of lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a build-up of lymph fluid in the fatty tissues just under your skin. It usually develops slowly over time. The swelling can range from mild to severe. It can start soon after surgery or radiation treatment. But it can also begin months or even many years later. Women who have many lymph nodes removed and women who have had radiation therapy to the breast and/or underarm area may have a higher risk of getting lymphedema. An infection, cut or trauma to that arm may initiate the swelling.

We do not fully understand why some patients are more likely to have problems with fluid build-up than others. Doctors expect that in the future, fewer women will develop lymphedema because:

  • Research advances have led to methods, like the sentinel lymph node biopsy;
  • Breast surgery and treatment keep getting more conservative;
  • Accelerated partial breast irradiation; and
  • Newer studies are looking at finding which lymph nodes drain the arm before surgery so they can be preserved when possible. This procedure is called axillary reverse mapping.

There are ways that you can care for your arm and breast area to reduce your chances of having future problems. Once lymphedema has started, it can’t be cured. But early and careful management can reduce symptoms and help keep it from getting worse.

How to reduce swelling after surgery or radiation

Right after surgery, the affected arm or breast area may swell. This swelling is usually short-term and slowly goes away between the next six to 12 weeks. These tips may help ease the swelling during this time:

  • Use your affected arm as you normally would to do things (combing your hair, bathing, dress and eating).
  • Raise your affected arm above the level of your heart two or three times a day and keep it there for 45 minutes. Lie down to do this and fully support your arm. Put your arm up on pillows so that your hand is higher than your wrist and your elbow is a little higher than your shoulder.
  • Exercise your affected arm while it is supported above the level of your heart by opening and closing your hand 15 to 25 times. Repeat this three to four times a day. This exercise helps reduce swelling by pumping lymph fluid out of the arm through the undamaged lymph vessels.
  • To get back your normal shoulder and arm movement, begin exercising your affected arm about a week after your surgery. But talk to your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist before doing any exercises. For most people, normal range of motion returns within four to six weeks.

If you have radiation therapy after surgery, it may cause arm swelling or make the swelling last longer than it normally would after surgery. It may also cause some swelling in the chest and breast toward the end of the treatment. In most cases, this swelling is short-term and will slowly go away. During treatment and up to 18 months afterward, you should do simple stretching exercises each day to keep full movement in your chest, arm, and shoulder.

Prevention of lymphedema

Try to avoid infection
Your body responds to infection by making extra fluid to fight the infection. Removal or damage to lymph nodes and vessels makes it harder to move this extra fluid. This can trigger lymphedema. Good hygiene and careful skin care may reduce the risk of lymphedema by helping you avoid infections.

Follow these tips to help you care for the hand and arm on the side of your body that had surgery:

  • If you’re having your blood drawn, receiving an IV or shot, have it given in your unaffected arm or hip. Tell your doctor or nurse that you are at risk for lymphedema.
  • Keep your hands and cuticles soft and moist by regularly using moisturizing lotion or cream. This will help keep your skin from chapping and cracking. Push your cuticles back with a cuticle stick rather than cutting them with scissors.
  • Keep your arm clean. Clean and protect any skin openings caused by cuts, scratches, insect bites, hangnails or torn cuticles. First, wash it with soap and water. Then, use an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment and cover the area with a clean bandage. Check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are not sure what to use.
  • Wear protective gloves when doing household chores that use chemical cleansers or steel wool, when gardening or doing yard work and maybe when washing dishes.
  • Wear a thimble when sewing to avoid needle and pin pricks to your finger.
  • Use an electric shaver to remove underarm hair. It may be less likely to cut or irritate the skin than a blade razor or hair removal cream.
  • Use an insect repellent to avoid bug bites when outdoors. If you are stung by a bee in the affected arm, clean and put ice on the area, raise the arm and call your doctor or nurse if the sting shows any signs of getting infected.
  • Avoid extreme cold. It can cause rebound swelling as you warm up and chapping of your skin, which may lead to infection.

Try to avoid burns

Like infections, burns can cause the body to make extra fluid that may build up and cause swelling when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged.

Tips to avoid burns include:

  • Protect your chest, shoulder, and arm from sunburn.
  • Use sunscreen labeled SPF 15 or higher.
  • Try to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
  • Use oven mitts that cover your arms.
  • Avoid oil splash burns from frying and steam burns from microwaved foods or boiling liquids.
  • Avoid high heat, such as from hot tubs and saunas. Don’t use heating pads on the affected areas. Heat can increase fluid build-up.

Try to avoid constriction
Constriction or squeezing of the arm may increase the pressure in nearby blood vessels. This may lead to increased fluid and swelling (much like water building up behind a dam). Some women have linked this with the start of lymphedema. Lymphedema has also been linked with air travel, possibly because of the low cabin pressure.

Tips to avoid constriction include:

  • Wear loose jewelry, clothing and gloves. Avoid anything that forms a snug band around your arm or wrist.
  • Do not use shoulder straps when carrying briefcases and purses.
  • Wear a loose-fitting bra with padded straps that do not dig into your shoulder. After mastectomy, use a lightweight prosthesis (breast form). A heavy prosthesis may put too much pressure on the area.
  • Do not have your blood pressure taken on the affected arm. If both arms are affected, blood pressure can be taken on your thigh.
  • On long or frequent flights, wear a compression sleeve. A well-fitted compression sleeve may help prevent swelling by helping to squeeze the lymph fluid through the remaining vessels before it builds up. But careful fitting is required, since any garment that is too tight near the top can actually reduce the lymph flow. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if you should be fitted for a sleeve to wear during air travel. You may also want to discuss ways to safely raise your arm above the level of your heart and exercise it during long flights.

It’s important to use your affected arm for normal everyday activities to help you to heal properly and regain strength. This includes doing things like brushing your hair and bathing. Using your muscles also helps drain lymph fluid from the limbs. If you’ve had surgery or radiation treatment, ask your doctor or nurse when you can begin to exercise and what type of exercises you can do. But keep in mind that overuse, which can result in injury, has been linked with the start of lymphedema in some women.

It’s a good idea to follow these tips:

  • Use your affected arm as normally as you can. Once you are fully healed, about four to six weeks after surgery or radiation treatment, you can begin to go back to the activities you did before your surgery.
  • Exercise regularly, but try not to over-tire your shoulder and arm. Before doing any strenuous exercise, such as lifting weights or playing tennis, talk with your doctor, nurse or physical therapist.
  • If your arm starts to ache, lie down and raise it above the level of your heart.
  • Avoid vigorous, repeated activities, heavy lifting or pulling. Use your unaffected arm or both arms as much as possible to carry heavy packages, groceries, handbags or children.

Try to avoid gaining weight

Extra fat requires more blood vessels. This creates more fluid in the arms and chest. It places a greater burden on the lymph vessels that are left. At least two studies have found that gaining weight after mastectomy is linked to a higher risk of lymphedema. Women who are more overweight (obese) were more likely to have severe lymphedema.

How to care for cuts, scratches, or burns

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Put an antibiotic cream or ointment on the area.
  • Cover with a clean, dry gauze or bandage.
  • For burns, apply a cold pack or cold water for 15 minutes, then wash with soap and water and put on a clean, dry dressing.
  • Watch for early signs of infection: pus, rash, red blotches, swelling, increased heat, tenderness, chills, or fever.
  • Call your doctor right away if you think you may have an infection.

Signs of lymphedema

The signs of lymphedema may include:

  • Swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand.
  • Area feels full or heavy.
  • Skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red.
  • New aching or discomfort in the area.
  • Less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand or wrist.
  • Trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves.
  • Bra doesn’t fit the same.
  • Ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight, but you have not gained weight.

Early on, raising the affected limb may relieve the lymphedema and the skin usually stays soft. Over time, the swollen area may become hot and red and the skin hard and stiff. If you’ve had any type of breast surgery, lymph nodes removed, or radiation treatment, look at your upper body in front of a mirror. Compare both sides of your body and look for changes in size, shape or skin color. If you notice any of the signs listed above and if they last for one to two weeks, call your doctor or nurse.

When to call your doctor or nurse

  • If you notice any swelling, with or without pain, that lasts for one to two weeks.
  • If any part of your affected arm, chest, breast, or underarm area (axilla) feels hot, looks red, or swells suddenly. These could be a sign of infection and you may need antibiotics
  • If you have a temperature of 100.5°F or higher (taken by mouth) that is not related to a cold or flu.
  • If you have any new pain in the affected area with no known cause.

Lymphedema treatment

If you are diagnosed with lymphedema, there are treatments to reduce the swelling, keep it from getting worse and decrease the risk of infection. The treatment is prescribed by your doctor and should be given by an experienced therapist. Be sure to check your health insurance to make sure the treatment is covered.

Mild lymphedema should be treated by a physical therapist or other health care professional who’ve gone through special training. A therapist can help you with skin care, massage, special bandaging, exercising and making sure you have the right compression sleeve. This is sometimes known as Complex Decongestive Therapy, or CDT. Manual Lymphatic Drainage, or MLD, is a type of massage used along with skin care, compression therapy, and exercise to manage lymphedema.

Seeking and getting treatment early should lead to a shorter course of treatment to get your lymphedema under control.

You can’t change the fact that you have lymphedema. What you can change is how you live your life — taking good care of yourself, making healthy choices and doing what you can to make your body and your mind feel as good as possible.
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Pregnancy After Breast Cancer

The decision to become pregnant after treatment for breast cancer often begins at the time of your treatment. It can be one of the most difficult decisions a woman may ever make. Since there are so many aspects of this decision, you must explore all of the risks, benefits and emotional issues.

As a practice, we are sensitive to these issues and have a strong working relationship with reproductive specialists from Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia. We will work with you to keep all of your options open for future pregnancies as we treat you cancer aggressively.

The discussion should begin with you and your partner. Being on the same page before even beginning to discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare team will certainly make the process proceed smoothly. Often times, a life-changing diagnosis of cancer can alter the priorities of one or both individuals in a relationship. It is of the utmost importance to maintain an open dialogue regarding this topic.

According to The American Cancer Society:

Article date: 1999/08/26

“A new 15-year study gives hope to young women with breast cancer who want to have children.

The research suggests pregnancy after successful treatment of breast cancer does not increase risk of recurrence or death, particularly among women with disease confined to the breast. The study, which included 520 premenopausal women 40 years of age or younger at diagnosis, was published in a recent issue of the journal Cancer.

“The results of our study support the growing consensus that subsequent pregnancy does not have an adverse effect on survival after breast carcinoma, particularly among women with local disease,” says study co-author, Priscilla Velenigas, PhD, of the department of biostatistics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

This research is more accurate than previous research in the same area because it focused on cases in a geographic area, rather than a single hospital, says Phyllis Wingo, PhD, director of surveillance research for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“This is a very good study,” Dr. Wingo says. “One of its real strengths is the use of first-hand interviews of women themselves. Other studies on this subject have focused solely on information taken from doctors and hospital records.””

The decision to conceive should involve counseling by an oncologist, breast surgeon psychologist and other patients who have dealt with the issue. We have numerous patients in our practice who have successfully carried pregnancies during their treatment for breast cancer, as well as countless numbers of women who have successfully conceived after breast cancer treatment. They are willing to share their stories with you. All you have to do is ask.

We’ve also had numerous patients successfully adopt a child after breast cancer who are willing to share their stories.

When there is a will, there is a way. Breast cancer teaches you to be a fighter and fight for what you believe in. Never lose the faith.

Patients often wonder if there is the potential of bringing a baby into the world who will grow up with no mother. It takes a very multidisciplinary approach to deal with those issues.
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Sex and Intimacy After Breast Cancer

If it were just as easy as hitting the reset button after the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, there would be no need for this section of information. Not all relationships that go into a diagnosis of breast cancer are well-cared for and nurtured; therefore, you can’t expect them to come out of the cancer journey whole and complete, without the proper attention.

Creating a new “normal” with your loved one takes a commitment from both partners. Physical, emotional and spiritual changes will affect your physical relationship. Rebuilding your intimate life takes time, persistence, creativity, empathy, laughter, tears and most important, open lines of honest communication.

When your breast cancer treatment is complete, your body is different and your hormone levels may be low, due to estrogen blockade. Your libido (sex drive) may be in the toilet or you may have vaginal dryness, akin to the Sahara desert. If you have had a mastectomy or even a lumpectomy and radiation therapy and have surgical scars, you may feel concerned about a loss of attractiveness. Physical sensation in your breast area may be gone as nerves and tissue have been interrupted and removed. Sex and intimacy will not be same as it was before breast cancer. But with a commitment to each other, you can create new ways to express your mutual love.

Your partner may have different issues, as he or she moves from the role of caregiver to lover. If your loved one is hesitant, he/she may be concerned that physical intimacy will cause you pain or embarrassment. Fatigue can also play a part, particularly if your mate has been holding down a job, in addition to caring for you at home. Be open with each other about your fears and feelings, and deal respectfully with each other.

Dr. Susan Kellogg Spadt, PhD, CRNP, IF, FCST, the Director of Female Sexual Medicine at the Center for Pelvic Medicine, joined Dr, Beth DuPree in the studio on The Medical View East Meets West to explore the issues that women face with intimacy and sexuality after they have survived breast cancer treatment. Our goal for our patients is to thrive after breast cancer, not just survive. With the help of Dr. Kellogg, the road to regaining intimacy and sexuality is easier to navigate. Before you can rekindle the flame, you need to begin to care for your self.

Dr. Kellogg’s recommendations:

  • Prioritize: Make time for your sexual self.
  • Walk This helps increase the blood flow.
  • Create your pleasure library

Her recommendations for vaginal moisturizing are: Me Again, Replens and Refresh. Her picks for vaginal lubrication are: Astroglide, Good Clean Love and Surgilube. She also recommends that survivors take a look at The Mediterranean Diet.

Dr. Kellogg can be reached at 610-525-0541 at The Center for Pelvic Medicine.
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