Living well with breast cancer


After treatment ends, you will need to have regular check-ups with your treatment team and have mammograms on any remaining breast tissue. Routine follow-up appointments will become less regular if you have no further problems.

Generally, people have a mammogram each year after treatment for breast cancer. These are free with a doctor’s referral to your DHB. How long you should have annual mammograms should be discussed with your treatment team.

Five years after treatment is finished, women aged 45 to 69 can return to the two yearly, routine screening programme provided by BreastScreen Aotearoa. If you still need yearly mammograms, your GP will provide a referral.

As your follow-up becomes less frequent it is important to let your GP know if you notice any new changes in your breasts or chest or have any unusual aches and pains anywhere else in your body.

Be breast aware – know how your breasts normally look and feel, and discuss any changes with your doctor.

Te arokā ki ō ū, me te whai tirotironga auau Ka mutu ana ngā maimoatanga, me whai koe i ngā tirotirohanga auau me tō kāhui maimoa, me tō whai whakaata ū mō ngā kikokiko ū e toi ana. Ka iti haere ake ngā hui tirotirohanga auau mehemea kua kore he raruraru.

Me arokā ki ō ū – me mōhio koe i te āhua o ō ū, me te tirotiro ki ō ū i ngā wā katoa mō ētahi panonitanga.


Finding ways to focus positively on your body – such as eating well, starting a new exercise programme like yoga, and making positive lifestyle changes can help after breast cancer treatment.

Keeping active will help you maintain a healthy weight and can reduce stress and tiredness. It also helps to keep your bones strong and your heart healthy. There is also evidence that regular physical activity may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back.

Some people gain weight during cancer treatment because of the treatments, changes in appetite and lower levels of activity. If you want to lose weight talk to your GP about ways to do this safely. 

“ Doing exercises and having healthy food, keeping
positive. This helped me a lot – as well as the
support from the group. We share our experiences
and talk about treatments.”

Te whakarite mō ngā panoni ki te āhua o tō tinana, te noho pakari tonu me te kai pai. Tērā pea ka āwhinatia koe mehemea ka rapu koe i ngā huarahi ki te arotau pai i tō tinana – pērā ki te kai pai, ki te tīmata hōtaka korikori pērā ki te yoga, me te whakamahi panoni toiora whai muri i te maimoa matepukupuku ū.

Ka piki te taumaha a ētahi i te wā maimoa nā runga i te maimoatanga, te whakarerekētanga ki tō hiakai, me te iti ake o ngā mahi korikori. Mehemea e hiahia ana koe ki te whakaiti i tō taumaha, me kōrero ki tō rata e pā ana ki ngā huarahi haumaru hei whai māu.


Your body needs a variety of nutrients from the food you eat, so balanced eating is essential. The World Cancer Research Fund’s diet and lifestyle recommendations (which are aimed at people with and without cancer) are summarised below. So when your appetite is good and your weight is normal, the following simple ideas can help you eat well.
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Keep active, and make it part of your everyday life
• Make wholegrains, vegetables, legumes (such as beans, chick peas and lentils) and fruit, the main part of your meals
• Lower your salt intake. This can be helped by reducing the amount of salty and processed foods you eat, especially takeaways
• Eat less red meat and limit processed meats
• Choose water over sugar-sweetened drinks
• Avoid or limit alcohol.
• Aim to meet your nutritional needs through a well-balanced diet.
eating well 8691
The New Zealand food and activity guidelines from the Ministry of Health provide more information:
• Living well with cancer – eating well and keeping active (available Jearly 2020) from the Cancer Society.
yoga 498

There are some useful ways for you to increase your physical activity. Be sure to explain your health situation to the staff so that they provide support according to your needs.

• Some people find support from a gym or a local weight loss club helpful. You may be able to find a local walking group to help you take part in regular moderate-intensity exercise.

• Others have found working with their GP through a Green Prescription useful and you can find more about that here

You may find joining a PINC & STEEL programme helpful. They offer a range of exercise programmes designed to help people through every stage of their treatment and recovery, from individualised physiotherapy and exercises to specialised group exercise classes. PINC programmes are available throughout the country and if the cost of the service is difficult for you, they offer financial hardship funding through an application process.

The Ministry of Health (2015) recommends:

min health


Some people having treatment for breast cancer are still able to go to work, while others find that they need rest or feel too unwell to continue their usual work routines. Your doctor may suggest that you consider taking some time off work during your treatment and recovery. 

If you continue to work

Whether or not you tell your employer and colleagues about your cancer is up to you. If your ability to do your job is not affected, you may not want to tell your employer straight away.

Most people find that there are things that can be done to make it easier for you to continue to work such as working part-time or working from home. Talk to your employer about what you might need while you are having treatment. It is useful to consider the following things if you continue to work.


• Talk to your employer about your need for time off for hospital appointments and treatment. Give them as much notice as possible and let them know when you will be able to return to work.

• Where possible, plan your treatment for later in the day or before the weekend to give you some time to recover.

• Having some extra help at home may mean that you have more energy for work.

• Make a list of your key duties at work so that when you are out of the office other people are able to help.

Taking a break from work during treatment

Some people choose not to work when they are having cancer treatment. Even with extra time off and good planning, it is sometimes too hard to continue working. If work has been a big part of your life, it can be hard to adjust. It may be useful to talk to a friend, family/whānau member, social worker or counsellor about your feelings.

Using your work entitlements: sick leave and annual leave

You may find yourself having to negotiate sick leave, leave without pay or annual leave. How you are able to use this leave will be in your employment contract. What leave is available to you is covered on this website.


Returning to work

Deciding to return to work after you have had a period of time away can be difficult. For many people a job can start to bring back some normality, routine and financial security. It is common to feel nervous and to question whether you will be able to do your job in the same way as you did before.


It is useful to discuss a plan with your manager that will help you to return to work gradually. If you can, think about what parts of your role are the most important and focus on these until you feel stronger. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have the opportunity to take regular breaks throughout the day, and that you make use of this time to have a small snack and a drink to help keep up your energy levels.

You might find that your co-workers respond in many ways when you go back to work. It can help to think ahead and have a plan for how you will respond to their questions so that you do not feel pressured to share information or explain things if you are not comfortable doing this. If you have any employment difficulties, talk to Community Law or seek legal advice from someone with experience in employment law.

Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand has some good information about this area on its website.

Tērā pea, he uaua te whakarite ki te hoki ki te mahi whai muri i te wā e ngaro ana koe. Mō te maha o rātou, mā te hoki ki te mahi e tau anō ai tō rātou āhua, ō rātou whakahaerenga, me te whakamarutanga pūtea. Kāore he aha mō te āwangawanga me te whakaaro anō mehemea ka āhei koe ki te mahi i ngā mahi pērā i ngā rā ki muri.

Financial support – benefits and entitlements

If you can no longer work because of the effects of your cancer, you may be entitled to receive income support from the Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income.

Mehemea kua kore koe e āhei ki te mahi nā runga i ngā papātanga o te matepukupuku, tērā pea, e tika ana kia whiwhi tautoko whiwhinga moni koe mai i te Manatū Whakahiato ora – Work and Income.

For more information, talk to a social worker or see the Cancer Society’s information sheets Benefits and entitlements and Benefits and entitlements: What happens when you apply for Work and Income support?