Saturday 7 July 2018

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Coping with the Heat

We are currently experiencing a glorious spell of hot summer weather here in the UK but how does it impact on us?

Our discussion this week looked at how our members, women with primary or secondary breast cancer, cope with the heat.

Though a few of us revel in the sunshine, for most, these long, hot, humid days are bringing some discomfort, and for a few, misery.

For those undergoing active treatment there are particular problems with heat exacerbating side effects from chemotherapy such as nausea, dizziness and headaches; from radiotherapy, where the skin may burn (not dissimilar to sunburn); for those of us on hormonal treatments, or with menopausal symptoms, hot flushes become more severe, disrupting our sleep, increasing our fatigue.

Many of us talked of feeling particularly exhausted during hot weather, and few of us enjoy sunbathing following a breast cancer diagnosis, often worrying about areas of skin that have been treated with radiotherapy or surgery being exposed to the sun. For some women, the shivery cold feeling brought on by some chemotherapy treatment is made worse by contrast in the heat, particularly as everyone around us is enjoying the outdoors.

Those of us with lymphoedema and have to wear compression sleeves suffer from increased swelling which can also lead to rubs and blisters and wearing our uncomfortable compression garments can feel unbearable. Women who have lost their hair from chemotherapy and who are wearing a wig commented that wigs are also extremely hot and uncomfortable to wear in the heat.

A few of us reported developing acute sensitivity to sunlight following chemotherapy, (polymorphic light eruption), others suffered prickly heat rash.

We shared our many tips on coping:
* Products such as chill bandanas, ice towels and pillows.
* Drink, drink, drink! Freezing water bottles to retain the chill longer, drinking fruit infused teas and waters (mint, cucumber, lemon), elderflower cordial, and lots of ice-cream!
* Hand-held fans and desk fans can be a great help, as can wet wipes, and little cooling sprays which can be bought as proprietary products or made up at home with a spray bottle and some water.
* Light, loose clothing made of cotton or linen was recommended, also light cotton undergarments, and sports clothing made of fabric designed to wick away sweat.
* Hats and parasols are useful accessories.
* If travelling on public transport, avoiding peak travel times and always carrying water.
* Resting during the hottest part of the day and increasing activity when it's cooler, like early morning and evening.

Some of us like all our windows open night and day to bring in whatever breeze might be outside, others are concerned about insect bites as these can be problematic to women after breast cancer, particularly for those who have lymphoedema. A bite can easily become infected as the body cannot fight the toxins efficiently without an active lymph system. Insect repellent alongside a high factor sun cream may help prevent the midges from biting.

Despite the discomfort, most of us said that a bit of sunshine helps lift our mood. Maybe it’s just that we’re having too much of a good thing this year!

If you are a woman living in the UK with a diagnosis of breast cancer and you would like to join our private group please send us a private message via the facebook page

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