A woman lays on a bed in pain, wincing, with pain lightning bolts zapping parts of her body

Community Shares: The Hardest Advanced Breast Cancer Symptoms to Manage

Advanced breast cancer affects far more than just your breasts. This diagnosis can cause painful symptoms in the entire body. It also often comes with physical and emotional implications that can greatly impact day-to-day life.

To hear more about which symptoms you find the most challenging to deal with, we asked our Facebook community: “If you could make 1 symptom disappear, what would it be?”

More than 60 of you weighed in, and here is what you had to say.

Fatigue with metastatic breast cancer

The number 1 answer from the community was fatigue. The treatment leaves most with advanced breast cancer feeling lethargic, making it hard to get through the day.

Feeling tired around the clock is a challenging way to live. Fatigue can make it difficult to get things done, from completing work tasks to running errands. This symptom also makes it especially challenging for many to exercise, practice self-care, and enjoy other activities that enrich life. And, as mentioned by many of you in the community, there is no pill for this feeling.

“Fatigue. I can take pills for everything else. There is nothing to alleviate fatigue.”

“Extreme fatigue.”

Coping with bone pain from bone mets

The second most common response was bone pain. The majority of the advanced breast cancer community also deals with bone mets.

For some, these cancer metastases in the bones are painless. However, they may cause a consistent, dull pain for some people, while others may experience sharp pain. Bone pain can be debilitating, but it can be treated and managed with medicine. If you experience bone pain but have not alerted your doctor to this symptom, please do, since it is something your care team should monitor.

“Bone pain, specifically in my back!”

“Bone aches.”

Lymphedema from breast cancer

Lymphedema, or swelling in the body, often occurs in people who have been treated for advanced breast cancer. That is because when lymph nodes near the breasts are removed, the body has a harder time removing lymph fluid. This fluid then collects in the arms or legs, limiting movement and making exercise or even everyday mobility a challenge.

“Lymphedema in my right leg. It is terrible.”

“Lymphedema.”

Depression with metastatic breast cancer

It makes sense that depression is one of the side effects of cancer. Living with ongoing cancer is very likely to cause depression, as well as anxiety. For many, depression is the one symptom that is perhaps the hardest to handle and accept.

Ways to deal with this symptom can include switching medications – in some cases, it is the treatment plan that is causing this condition. Other options include yoga, meditation, therapy, or mindfulness practices to help bring some peace from the difficult feelings. For many, connection with others is the antidote to depression. Talking with others who have advanced breast cancer can help you feel seen and understood, and can foster feelings of hope.

“Depression.”

“Sadness.”

Thank you to everyone who shared responses for this story. We appreciate your candor and your support for one another. We are here for you!

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