If a loved one receives a diagnosis of HR+/HER2- breast cancer, there are many ways family members and friends can offer support. These can include helping out where necessary and providing companionship.

HR+/HER2- breast cancer is the most common type of female breast cancer. A person may require various levels of support from their friends and family.

This article suggests ways people can provide support to a loved one who has HR+/HER2- breast cancer. It also includes advice from a team of experts.

Approximately 68% of all breast cancers are HR+/HER2-.

“HR+/HER2- breast cancer is sensitive to hormones (either estrogen, progesterone, or both) and doesn’t express a receptor called HER2,” explained Anne Peled, medical doctor and breast cancer surgeon.

Dr. Peled further explains that this is the most common kind of breast cancer. Treatment may include hormone-blocking medication, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

Family and friends can help someone with HR+/HER2- breast cancer by providing transportation to medical appointments and preparing meals. However, it is important to check in with the person’s dietary needs.

“Nausea can be a common companion to chemotherapy, and they may be following other recommendations to support their health,” said Erika Bent, a licensed family and marriage therapist.

It would be helpful to prepare a meal in a disposable pan they can store in the freezer and heat up when needed. This will reduce preparation and clean-up so they can focus on their treatment and health. Family and friends can even provide disposable plates, bowls, and cutlery so they do not have to wash up.

Transportation to and from appointments is also important, especially before and after any procedures and treatments. They may need a patient advocate or someone to take notes during appointments and ask questions.

Running errands can also be a huge help, whether this involves taking children to school, going to the post office, picking clothes up at the dry cleaners, or grocery shopping. They will appreciate not having to do these things as they may not have time or have little energy.

Routines can mean everything for someone undergoing breast cancer treatment. They can provide a sense of normalcy during what can be an anxious time.

Bent says it is helpful for the individual to continue doing the weekly traditions they usually did before cancer, such as going to the farmer’s market or playing games at home.

Caregivers can consider providing assistance to the recovering person so they can continue with their routines and favorite activities.

“Share about your day or complain about the neighbor from across the street. Whatever it is, it can be a welcome distraction from cancer and help your loved one regain a sense of their identity,” Bent explained.

Dr. Peled noted that keeping a person company during longer appointments, such as chemotherapy infusions, can provide substantial support. For example, bring some board games to play together or knitting supplies to help keep them occupied.

Talk with each other and listen to the person’s needs. “It can be as simple as, ‘I feel scared and overwhelmed, but I’m here, and we’ll get through this together,’” Bent noted.

Caregivers can provide an emotionally safe space where their loved one can express their feelings by allowing them to feel and convey those emotions. They can listen and validate their feelings.

“Validation looks like reflecting back what they may be feeling and acknowledging the truth in their experience,” Bent added.

After an HR+/HER2- breast cancer diagnosis, an individual may need additional support. One person cannot provide all the support the individual needs.

Some examples of further support they may need are “a psychotherapist to offer emotional support or a social worker to assist with disability insurance,” Bent explained.

Exercise has many benefits for those with breast cancer, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Caregivers can keep it simple and encourage the loved one to take up simple movements.

For example, if they are used to training for cross-fit competitions but doing even 5 minutes seems overwhelming, let them know that this is OK and that any exercise is helpful — even walking.

A 2021 review of 57 studies on the benefits of exercise for people with breast cancer found that 50 minutes or more exercise a week helps with fatigue, depression, anxiety, and quality of life. That works out to be less than 10 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Caregivers can try going for a brisk walk with their loved one when they feel up to it.

Taking care of someone with an HR+/HER2- breast cancer diagnosis can cause caregiver burnout, a common response to chronic stress. It is important to be aware that caregivers may experience burnout, which is a common response to chronic stress.

“Caregivers are the pillars of support for our cancer patients, and if there are signs of caregiver burnout (e.g., fatigue, resentment, depression, and anxiety), it should also be caught and addressed early because otherwise, who will the cancer patient lean on to for support if the pillar no longer stands strong?” asks Sarah Bonza, a board certified family physician.

Caregiving can be difficult on its own, but adding other responsibilities, such as a job or children, can make it even more challenging. Joining a local support group for cancer caregivers and regularly meeting a therapist can help alleviate any emotional issues.

Caregivers can also try to avoid taking on too much — what tasks can others do? Do not be afraid to ask for help. One person cannot provide 100% of the necessary care without burning out — another relative or friend may be able to provide transportation or prepare meals. Someone else can help with transportation or provide child care when needed.

The National Cancer Institute recommends caregivers practice self-care to help prevent burnout. A person may wish to carve out some relaxing self-care time, such as:

  • going for a solo walk
  • journaling
  • stretching
  • practicing yoga
  • watching a favorite movie

Caregivers can aim to find something that feels relaxing and rejuvenating and make time for it each day

Friends and family can offer various levels of support to a person with a HR+/HER2- breast cancer. This can involve helping out with everyday tasks, creating a sense of normalcy, and attending medical appointments.

It is important for caregivers to take time to relax and unwind to help avoid burnout. Receiving counseling and attending support groups can also help.