Your Health

Help for recovering breast cancer patients only a click away 

Photo of a group of women cheering each other on.
Photo of Beth Szuck. BETH SZUCK
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Friday, October 19, 2018

A diagnosis of breast cancer is not something to be taken lightly.

After all, this disease strikes more than 800 Manitobans every year, and is the second leading cause of death from cancer among Canadian women.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources and supports available to help women and men navigate the challenges that come with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Breast Health Centre, for example, employs a team of health-care providers who specialize in co-ordinating clinical assessments, diagnostic tests, treatment and support for breast cancer.

However, it is important to remember that a patient’s journey with breast cancer does not always end when medical management stops. That’s why the centre, located on Taché Avenue across from St. Boniface Hospital, is also dedicated to providing patients with the resources they need to overcome health issues that can emerge during and following treatment.

For example, patients who have surgery for breast cancer may develop a condition called lymphedema (a chronic swelling of the arm, hand, chest and/or breast). Patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy can suffer a number of side-effects, including nausea, fatigue, weight changes and hair loss. Over time, some treatments can increase the risk of osteoporosis (a disease that causes bones to thin and weaken) and heart damage.

The Breast Health Centre offers a number of classes and sessions that can help patients better manage these and other conditions, thereby enhancing their recovery.

A case in point is a session called Bone Health after Breast Cancer, which is designedfor those who want to reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis. Many patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, a time when bone health can already be an issue.

Undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and some medications may increase the risk of developing this disease. The session, which is delivered three times a year in partnership with CancerCare Manitoba and Osteoporosis Canada, focuses on how to reduce the risk through diet and supplements such as calcium and vitamin D, as well as promoting the role of exercise to improve balance and strengthen bones. The centre’s dietitian, a pharmacist and a physiotherapist lead these sessions. 

Let’s Get Physical is an eight-week program offered three times a year to help breast cancer patients with arm, chest or breast lymphedema who are looking to get in shape. These full-body work-outs done in a circuit and lead by a fitness instructor, incorporate a variety of gym equipment. One of the centre’s lymphedema therapists is present for support and to answer questions about lymphedema. The Breast Health Centre partners with Concordia Lifestyle Fitness Centre to deliver these sessions.

The Eat Well, Get Fit and Live Well program is also eight weeks long, and deals with weight changes, physical activity and healthy eating after treatment. Information is provided on how to achieve a healthy diet, how to safely increase physical activity, and how to set up a successful home exercise program. Individuals attending this program learn how they can reduce the risk of recurring cancer and other chronic diseases by adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes incorporating more plant foods into their diet and getting regular physical activity. This program, delivered in partnership with St. Boniface Hospital, is offered three times a year. The centre’s social worker provides health coaching and support during these sessions, while a dietitian and a fitness instructor are also on hand to provide expert information and guidance.

It is worth noting that the centre offers a range of other services, including psychosocial counselling. The centre’s social worker provides individual and family counselling, makes contacts with additional resources and assists patients with completion of medical forms and letters that are often confusing or difficult to sort through.

All of these education programs and support make up part of the Breast Health Centre’s program delivery and have one thing in common. They provide an opportunity for patients to enhance their recovery in a supportive environment where they can obtain accurate and reliable answers about breast cancer and health-related issues.

To learn more about how the Breast Health Centre can support you in a healthy lifestyle along the road to recovery, from breast cancer and how to get more information on any of the educational programs offered, visit www. wrha.mb.ca/bhc.

Beth Szuck is a clinical dietitian with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Breast Health Centre. This is the last in a series of columns marking Breast Health Awareness Month. This column was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Friday, October 19, 2018.


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