Throughout October, you’ve likely seen dozens of pink ribbons donning hundreds of products, services and events all to promote awareness of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 200,000 people, including about 2,000 men, are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Of them, about 40,000 (440 men) die. Statistics like these are the reason the organization behind National Breast Cancer Awareness Month spotlights its work in October, but continues its mission all year.
Those with cancer and those who care for them can tell you that the disease takes a toll mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Treatments cover the gamut from holistic therapies to traditional surgeries to cell-level intensity. For those undergoing radiation, chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, the side effects can bring additional hardships. Those side effects can be especially troubling because they can impact the patient’s recovery. Common problems include general maladies such as anemia, fatigue, pain, infections, hair loss or memory problems as well as eating and digestive disorders such as loss in appetite, mouth sores, painful swallowing, unexpected bleeding, constipation, diarrhea and more.
Of course, managing the side effects can be just as critical to a patient’s recovery as the treatments themselves. Most notably, it’s important that the patient is able to eat foods that provide adequate calories to maintain and strengthen the body. Because favorite foods may not taste the same, it’s important to be aware of alternatives, add more meals throughout the day, do simple exercises such as walking, and eat calorie-rich simple-to-eat foods such as milkshakes, cream soups, lentils, beans, eggs and fish.
Caregivers need to ensure their health, too, by scheduling breaks, limiting contributions, accepting help from friends and family, and hiring assistants to provide care while they visit with friends, see a movie, or just take a walk.
While October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, its organization provides education and support all year long through its website at www.NBCAM.org. Patients, survivors, caregivers and the general public also can find help and advice at these other valuable websites:
• National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health:
• Breast Cancer Network of Strength:
• American Cancer Society: