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Breast Cancer Chemo Side Effects

Adriamycin And Cytoxan: Rounds 2

What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?

The first round of AC chemo was the worst for me. Once the nurse changed my nausea medicine, I didnt get sick to my stomach any more. I did get sleepier DURING the chemo sessions though and just kind of laid there with the TV on.

Looking at my phone or a magazine made me feel nauseouskind of like reading in the car. I also didnt really want food while I was there. If I did eat, it had to be something bland like french fries or crackers, but that was about it.

After each session, I continued to mostly sleep for the first 5-7 days. I also never really remembered this first week after an infusion. I watched TV shows and had conversations with people that I would have absolutely no recollection of the next day. A lot of that may have been due to the nausea medicine I was taking and not the actual chemo though.

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Talk With Others Who Understand

MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, over 58,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you undergone chemotherapy? How have you dealt with the side effects? Share your tips for managing side effects in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Surgery For Breast Cancer

Sexual problems have been linked to mastectomy and breast-conserving surgery surgeries that remove all or part of the breast. Losing a breast can be very distressing. A few women lose both breasts. Sometimes hormone therapy or other treatment is needed, and the effects of those treatments might add to sexual problems from losing a breast.

Surgery for breast cancer can interfere with pleasure from breast caressing. After a mastectomy, the whole breast is gone and theres a loss of sensation or feeling. Some women still enjoy being stroked around the area of the healed scar. Others dislike being touched there and may no longer even enjoy having the remaining breast and nipple touched.

Some women who have had a mastectomy feel self-conscious being the partner on top during sex. This position makes it easy to notice that the breast is missing. Some women who have had mastectomies wear a short nightgown or camisole, or even just a bra, with the prosthesis inside during sexual activity. Other women find the breast prosthesis awkward or in the way during sex. A woman may choose to have breast reconstruction. This surgery rebuilds the shape and size of the breast. This may help a woman enjoy sex more because it may help her feel whole and attractive. But it may not fully bring back the physical feelings of pleasure she used to have from having her breast touched.

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Why Is Chemotherapy Used For Breast Cancer

Not everyone who has breast cancer needs chemotherapy. Depending on the cancer stage, your oncologist may recommend chemotherapy:

  • Before surgery : You may have chemotherapy to shrink a tumor. This option could make it possible to have a less-extensive surgery. It may also allow healthcare providers to discover more about the biology of the cancer itself by how it responds to chemotherapy.
  • After surgery : Sometimes, cancerous cells remain in your body but dont show up on imaging tests. Your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. This treatment can also reduce the risk of the cancer from returning .
  • For advanced cancer: If breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body , chemotherapy may be the main treatment.
  • For IBC: Inflammatory breast cancer doesnt have a lump that a surgeon can remove easily. Chemotherapy often is the first treatment for IBC.

How Is Chemotherapy Given

Effects on the body

Many different drugs and combinations of drugs can be used to treat breast cancer. Chemotherapy can be taken as tablets or capsules, or injected through an intravenous drip. Chemotherapy for breast cancer is usually given through a drip. The way that treatment is given depends on the specific drugs that are being used.

Chemotherapy is co-ordinated by a medical oncologist and is given by specialist cancer nurses in the chemotherapy unit at a hospital. Chemotherapy is usually given over a few hours as a day-only treatment, so you can go home on the same day. Some women find it helpful to have someone available to drive them home after treatment in case they feel unwell. Chemotherapy is not normally painful although some people find the drip uncomfortable.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer is usually given in treatment cycles. Typically, you would go to the hospital for the day every three weeks and this would be repeated until you have had four or six treatments. Sometimes chemotherapy is given more often than every three weeks, for example it can be given as a weekly cycle for eight to twelve cycles. Your doctor will explain the schedule that has been recommended for you.

The common chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer include:

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What Happens After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

Immediately after chemotherapy, you may feel sleepy or nauseated. Typically, the side effects of chemotherapy go away after you complete all prescribed cycles.

After all of your cycles of chemotherapy are completed, your healthcare provider may order imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, to show whether the cancer is gone or the tumor has shrunk.

Gift Aid Your Donation

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This includes any donations you have made in the past four years and all future donations. To qualify for Gift Aid, you must be a UK taxpayer and understand that if you pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all your donations in that tax year it is your responsibility to pay any difference. Please notify Cancer Support UK if you want to cancel this declaration, change your name or home address, or no longer pay sufficient tax on your income and/or capital gains.

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Reducing Your Risk Of Infection And Bleeding

You can help reduce the risk of infection and bleeding by:

  • Regularly washing and drying your hands thoroughly
  • Cleaning any cuts and grazes and cover with a dressing or plaster
  • Avoiding people who are unwell or may be infectious
  • Eating as healthily as possible, and following any advice about food and drink given to you by your hospital
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Storing and cooking food correctly

Tips For Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects For Breast Cancer

Adjuvant And Neoadjuvant Therapy Side Effects-Dr. David Margileth
  • There are many practical ways to prepare for chemotherapy and its side effects.
  • People who have been through chemotherapy, including MyBCTeam members, are a great resource when preparing to undergo this cancer treatment.
  • Pay attention to how your body feels before, during, and after chemotherapy, and discuss your side effects with your oncology provider.

Chemotherapy is a common treatment for breast cancer, but it unfortunately comes with a range of side effects. If youre nervous about the side effects of chemotherapy, youre not alone. People whove been there, like members of MyBCTeam, have helpful tips and suggestions for dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy.

The side effects of chemotherapy can vary, depending on the type and dose of chemotherapy drug, the length of treatment, and the individual. You may not experience all of the possible side effects of treatment.

Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Trouble concentrating, also known as chemo brain
  • Increased risk of infection

Consider the tips in this article, as well as recommendations from your cancer care team, to help you mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for chemotherapy treatment.

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What To Expect After Last Chemo Treatment

Physical Changes and Strategies to Cope

First and foremost, you may be noticing some physical changes in your life after chemo. Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells that grow and divide quickly unfortunately, this sometimes results in fast-growing, healthy cells also being affected.

Its important to note that not everyone will experience the same sort of side-effects when it comes to life after chemo. Every situation is unique, and each survivors situation is different.

Fortunately, no matter what you may be dealing with in your post-treatment life, most of your bodily issues are able to be kept under control. Luckily, there are numerous precautions and strategies you can employ to minimize the adverse effects of life after chemo.


Depending on where your cancer was located, you may be dealing with pain. This pain can either be localized to the area where cancer was being treated, or it may be an issue that has impacted your entire body. Whatever the case may be, there are ways to cope with some of the painful side-effects that come along with what happens after chemo is finished, which will impact how long until you feel better.

Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Inability to keep your balance
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat

Skin Changes

Some of the skin changes survivors frequently mention include:

Dry Skin Your skin may be feeling itchy, accompanied by roughness and tightness. This is one of the more common skin conditions survivors may deal with.

What Is Cancer Coach

Our Cancer Coach support groups are available to anyone who has completed their physical cancer treatment and is experiencing low mood, anxiety and worry, and doesnt know how to move forward in their recovery.

The groups are suitable for people who have previously had a stage 1-3 diagnosis.

The course takes participants through a series of weekly facilitated group sessions, run for a six-week period over the telephone or online video. The sessions take participants through a series of strategies, techniques and exercises that aim to furnish them with the tools, support and coping strategies that can help them on their recovery journey.

Our trained group facilitators talk participants through the negative thought patterns that can linger after treatment ends, how to challenge them, as well as how to manage worries. There is also a chance to talk to others in the group, all of whom are recovering following the end of treatment. This ensures everyone can receive and give valuable peer support and encouragement.

The course is free and completely confidential, accessible via the telephone or online video, from the comfort and privacy of home.

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Chemotherapy Drug Interactions And Side Effects

When looking at how best to combine chemo drugs, doctors must look at interactions between chemo drugs and other medicines the person is taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. These interactions may make side effects worse and affect how well chemo drugs work.

Its important that you tell your doctor about all medicines, including over-the counter medicines, vitamins, herbal or dietary supplements you are taking even if you only take them as needed.

For instance, platelets help blood clot and prevent bleeding. Many chemo drugs lower the number of platelets for a time. Taking aspirin or other related drugs can also weaken blood platelets. This isnt a problem for healthy people with normal platelet counts, but if a person has low platelet counts from chemo, this combination might put them at risk of a serious bleeding problem.

Your doctor can talk with you about the safety of using other medicines, vitamins, and supplements while you are being treated for cancer.

Tips For Easing The Side Effects Of Breast Cancer Surgery:

Side effects of radiation for breast cancer: What to know

Swelling and pain may be addressed by taking prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. Your doctor may also suggest certain exercises to help with swelling and soreness.

Its important to keep the bandages in place until your doctor removes them as they protect the wound, keep the area dry, and reduce your chances of infection or prolonged bleeding.

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What Happens During A Treatment

During IPT, the patients blood sugar will be dropped to low levels to deprive the cancer cells of their main source of fuel. The Nurse Practitioner will do this by administering insulin which takes approximately 15 minutes to get the blood sugar to the required level. The APRN will then administer a low dose of chemo drugs that are specific to the patients cancer type through their PICC or port. The insulin is used to open up the membrane of the cancer cells in order for them to fully digest the chemo drugs. This makes it easier for the malignant cells to be targeted without harming the healthy cells that our body needs.

If The Cancer Comes Back

If cancer does return, your treatment options will depend on where it comes back, what treatments youve had before, and your current health and preferences. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment of Recurrent Breast Cancer.

Its important to know that women who have had breast cancer can also still get other types of cancer. In fact, women who have had breast cancer are at higher risk for certain other cancers. Because of this, its important to follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer. To learn more about the risks of second cancers and what you can do about them, see Second Cancers After Breast Cancer.

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Possible Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

Chemo drugs can cause side effects. These depend on the type and dose of drugs given, and the length of treatment. Some of the most common side effects of chemo include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

Chemo can also affect the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow, which can lead to:

  • Increased chance of infection
  • Easy bleeding or bruising

Other side effects are also possible. Some of these are more common with certain chemo drugs. For example:

Most of these side effects tend to go away after treatment is finished. Some, such as hand and foot numbness, may last for a long time. There are often ways to lessen these side effects. For example, you can be given drugs to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.

Be sure to discuss any questions about side effects with your cancer care team. Report any side effects or changes you notice while getting chemo right away so that they can be treated promptly. In some cases, the doses of the chemo drugs may need to be reduced or treatment may need to be delayed or stopped to prevent the effects from getting worse.

Effects On Your Digestive System

Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: Options, Duration, and Side Effects

Chemotherapy can affect your digestive system in different ways. Some people get constipated, other people have diarrhoea. Your hospital will have its own guidelines, but if you have four or more episodes of diarrhoea within 24 hours contact you GP or treatment team. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Some chemotherapy drugs can make indigestion more likely. Some may also cause heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the lower chest.

Let your chemotherapy team know if you have any of these side effects. They can prescribe medication to help and can give you information about diet. You can also be referred to a dietitian if necessary.

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How Often Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Come Back After Treatment

If stage 1 cancer is treated comprehensively, it rarely comes back. A new, unrelated breast cancer is more likely to emerge after stage 1 breast cancer is treated than a recurrence. Your healthcare provider will recommend a surveillance schedule for you so that new breast cancer or a recurrence can be identified and treated as quickly as possible.

After Each Chemo Treatment

If necessary, your blood will be drawn after chemo. If your red blood cells or neutrophils are low, you may be offered shots to boost those counts. Chemotherapy can greatly affect your blood counts because blood cells divide and multiply quickly and are therefore targeted by the drugs.

Staying on top of your blood counts is essential for recovering from chemo with a healthy immune system and avoiding anemia and neutropenia .

Breast Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctors appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Your specific chemotherapy drug or regimen may cause other side effects, as well. These effects will subside after youve finished treatment.

Before each treatment, your medical oncologist may want you to take medications to protect against side effects. Be sure to take these on time and as prescribed.

Between chemotherapy appointments, if you have trouble dealing with side effects, dont hesitate to call your clinic and ask for help. For example, if youre dehydrated after a treatment, your healthcare providers may suggest an IV infusion of fluids. Other medications may be given along with the saline to help with nausea and vomiting.

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How Chemotherapy Is Used

Doctors use chemotherapy in several ways to treat to treat all stages of breast cancer. Whether or not a doctor recommends chemotherapy for you depends on the breast cancer’s characteristics, your health history, and your personal preferences.

Doctors call chemotherapy given after surgery adjuvant chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is given after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may have been left behind or may have travelled to other places in the body. These single cells or groups of two or three cells are very small and don’t appear on imaging tests. Chemotherapy after surgery reduces the risk of the cancer coming back, called recurrence by doctors.

Doctors dont recommend chemotherapy after surgery for everyone diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, except in the following situations:

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    If there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes near the affected breast, doctors may recommend chemotherapy.

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    If the cancer has characteristics that make it more aggressive, such as being hormone receptor-negative or HER2-positive, doctors usually recommend chemotherapy.

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    If youre a pre-menopausal woman, your doctor is more likely to recommend chemotherapy because breast cancer in pre-menopausal women tends to be more aggressive.

Doctors call chemotherapy given before surgery neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is given before surgery to shrink large cancers, which may:

  • breast cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes


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