Q. How long after completing breast cancer treatments can you still feel fatigued? Should I have any special follow-up?

A.

For women who have had radiation as part of their treatment, it can take several months until their normal level of energy returns and most women report that it takes about a year after completing treatment that they begin to feel like their old selves. Remember each person’s response to treatment is different so be patient with your recovery. It might be helpful to join a support group to find out ways others are managing these challenges.

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints of women dealing with breast cancer. Whether it is caused by chemotherapy, radiation, taking an aromatase inhibitor or simply by stress it needs to be addressed. The first thing to do is to discuss with your doctor why you are so tired and what can be done to help.

There are some simple things you can do to help yourself:

  1. Pace yourself but try to stay active; conserve your energy for your priorities and find your own comfort level
  2. Take power naps, a 30-minute nap can help without disturbing your night’s sleep
  3. When friends or family ask what they can do, delegate! For instance, let them drive to soccer practice or pick up the groceries
  4. Try simple exercises such as walking or yoga, which can help regain energy and clear the mind

As for follow-up care, most surgeons and oncologists will continue to follow a patient at six-month intervals for the first year or two, and then on a yearly basis. Depending on whether you are continuing to take Tamoxifen or other hormonal blockers, your oncologist will schedule visits at intervals of three or six months and yearly for the next five years if you remain symptom free. Your oncologist will continue to do blood work at these visits and unless you have had bilateral surgery, you should continue to have your regularly scheduled mammograms. You can find more information though the American Cancer Society’s publication, What Happens After Breast Cancer Treatment?