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Survivorship After Breast Cancer Treatment at UPMC in Central Pa.

This Survivorship section focuses on what you can expect after treatment has ended. You will learn about the challenges you may experience as a result of your cancer and cancer treatment. When possible, we have provided tips to help you manage these issues.

If you have a concern that is not mentioned here, please share it with your UPMC Breast Care Center team. We will work with you to find a solution.

Follow-Up Care

You will continue to see your doctor for follow-up care after you've completed your breast cancer treatment. Your doctor will monitor your recovery, conduct a physical exam and order medical tests as needed.

Your doctor will also:

Follow-up appointments are an important part of survivorship. They help you maintain your physical and emotional health. They are also great opportunities to discuss any concerns you have about your care plan or your future health.

Managing Side Effects

Unfortunately, not all side effects end on the day that you complete treatment. Some side effects will continue for weeks or months afterward. And with certain treatments, side effects may not even appear until months or years later.

Your UPMC Breast Care Center team will help prepare you for these side effects so that you're ready should they occur.

Common side effects that you may experience after breast cancer treatment include:

Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue Problems

Chemotherapy, steroids or hormonal therapy can put you at risk of developing thin or weak bones. This is called osteoporosis. You could also develop joint pain.

Tip: Reduce your risk of osteoporosis by:

  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Eating foods that are rich in calcium and Vitamin D
  • Exercising regularly
  • Emotional Difficulties

Talking with your doctor about medications that slow the rate of bone thinning, reduce new bone damage or promote bone healing.

Chemo Brain

Chemo brain is a term used by cancer survivors to describe difficulty thinking clearly after cancer treatment. Problems can include difficulty concentrating, multitasking, understanding or remembering things.

Tip: Speak with your doctor or a member of your health care team about:

  • Medication options
  • Cognitive rehabilitation and training

Digestion Problems

Digestion problems can be caused by chemotherapy, radiation and cancer surgery. Some people may develop scarring, chronic pain and intestine problems. Others may develop chronic diarrhea.

Tip: Speak with a nutritionist or dietitian about your problem. They can help make sure you get enough nutrients and achieve a healthy weight.

Endocrine (Hormonal) Problems

Cancer treatment can cause problems with fertility. These problems can vary. Some women have irregular periods or stop having their period. Other women have early onset menopause.

Tip: If you plan to have children after cancer treatment, speak with your doctor. There are ways to preserve your fertility if your doctor knows in advance. You may also benefit from seeing a reproductive specialist.

Emotional Difficulties

Breast cancer and treatment can place you on an emotional roller coaster. These feelings can persist after your treatment ends. Cancer survivors report feeling a range of emotions including relief, gratitude, fear, anger, guilt and isolation. Some survivors, caregivers, family and friends also report post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tip: Speak with a member of your health care team if you are:

  • Having trouble dealing with your emotions
  • Experiencing difficulty with relationships or daily routines because of your emotions


A feeling of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion is common among cancer survivors. Fatigue can last for months or years after treatment.

Tip: Speak with your health care team if you're experiencing fatigue. They can help. A cancer rehabilitation program may be appropriate for you to gain back your strength after treatment.

Heart Problems

Radiation therapy to the chest, or certain chemotherapies can cause heart problems. These include swelling of the heart muscle, problems with pumping blood or heart disease.

Tip: Talk with your doctor to see if you need to be followed for heart problems.

Lung Problems

Cancer survivors who have had chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the chest may experience lung damage, changes in the way their lungs work, thickening of the lining of the lung, inflammation and difficulty breathing.

Tip: Speak with your doctor to see if you should be followed for lung problems. This is particularly important for people who have a history of lung disease and older adults.


Lymphedema occurs when there is a build-up of lymph fluid in a part of the body and is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment. These build-ups can cause swelling and other problems in the affected area.

Tip: Specialists at the Lymphedema Program at UPMC in Central Pa. can teach you about the risk factors for lymphedema. They can also help you learn how to prevent and manage lymphedema should it occur.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Radiation, chemotherapy or breast cancer itself can cause a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This is a type of nerve damage that can cause numbness, tingling, pain, muscle weakness, constipation or dizziness.

Tip: Many people do recover from neuropathy over time. Speak with your doctor about the treatment options that are available for you.

Secondary Cancers

In rare cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy can cause a different type of cancer. They can also cause either myelodysplasia or acute leukemia - two types of blood cancers.

Tip: Speak with your doctor about your risk of developing a secondary cancer.

Need more information?

Phone: 717-545-5000

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PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
2035 Technology Parkway
Suite 200
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Phone: 717-988-1450
Fax: 717-221-5544

PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Suite 202
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-545-5000
Fax: 717-545-5002

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