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Can You Drink Alcohol During Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer

Why You Should Not Use Aloe Vera During Radiation Therapy

Radiation Effects See the effects of radiation therapy on my skin & How I’m feeling

Concisely, we can say this:

There is scientific evidence backing up claims that aloe vera is not recommended for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

In fact, in some instances, aloe vera may actually have an adverse effect on treatment. While there is no substantial scientific data backing up the positives of using aloe vera as an alternative form of treatment post-radiation, there is plenty of data supporting the opposite:

  • Aloe vera provided no benefit in multiple studies and systematic reviews. Quasi-experimental study showed that aloe vera based gel was not effective in preventing effects on the skin and facilitating patient comfort among 45 pediatric patients receiving radiation therapy
  • Two randomized trials did not show a benefit of aloe vera gel as it relates to reducing the incidence of radiation therapy-induced skin toxicity
  • Systematic reviews have not provided evidence in support of the use of aloe vera for the purpose of treating the effects of radiation therapy
  • In one analysis, aloe vera was actually associated with higher toxicity

Limit Or Avoid Alcohol

Many people drink alcohol to relax and socialise. However, drinking too much may lead to weight gain. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Even low levels of alcohol consumption can increase cancer risk, and the risk increases with every drink you consume.

Cancer Council recommends that people limit their alcohol consumption. Those who do not drink should not take up drinking alcohol.

The National Health and Medical Research Councils new alcohol guidelines for healthy adults are:

  • To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
  • The less you drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related harm. For some people, not drinking at all is the safest option.

The guidelines also recommend no alcohol use for pregnant and breastfeeding women, women planning a pregnancy and people younger than 18.

One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, but remember that drinks served at home, restaurants and bars are usually more than a standard drink.

What To Do If You Have Problems

Focus on eating high fat foods if you are having difficulty eating enough. There are more calories in fat than in protein or carbohydrate.

Remember that you might lose a little weight during radiotherapy. But if you are having any problems with eating tell the team involved in your treatment. If you are having radiotherapy to the head or neck you may need a tube into your stomach to have liquid food for a time.

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How The Diet Can Change During Radiation Therapy

When it comes to healthy eating, we know that usually means eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. But what about milkshakes and gravy sauce? Would you ever expect those to be good for you too?

Your diet during radiation might include foods you wouldnt normally eat when otherwise healthy. Thats because your bodys needs during radiation are different.

What you eat during radiation therapy will be a combination of what tastes good and what your body needs during treatment. For example, here are some of the ways that the key components of your diet may change:

Calories: Some radiation patients need a higher-calorie diet to make sure that the food they are able to eat provides the body with enough energy to promote healthy tissue growth.

Protein: Protein helps maintain muscle and supports a healthy immune system both critical functions needed during radiation. Thats why many radiation patients also have high protein diets.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins and minerals also help keep the immune system strong and support healthy tissue repair. Maintaining adequate levels can be important. You should discuss with your doctor whether vitamin supplements are recommended. In some cases, your doctor may recommend you stop certain supplements during radiation therapy.

What Does The American Cancer Society Recommend

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According to the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol. People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly.

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Urinary And Bladder Changes

Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause urinary and bladder problems by irritating the healthy cells of the bladder wall and urinary tract. These changes may start 35 weeks after radiation therapy begins. Most problems go away 28 weeks after treatment is over. You may experience:

  • Burning or pain when you begin to urinate or after you urinate
  • Trouble starting to urinate
  • Bladder spasms, which are like painful muscle cramps

Ways to manage include:

  • Drink lots of fluids. Aim for 68 cups of fluids each day, or enough that your urine is clear to light yellow in color.
  • Avoid coffee, black tea, alcohol, spices and all tobacco products.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse if you think you have urinary or bladder problems. You may need to provide a urine sample to check for infection.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have incontinence. He/she may refer you to a physical therapist to assess your problem. The therapist may recommend exercises to help you improve your bladder control.
  • Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you urinate, reduce burning or pain, and ease bladder spasms.

How Soon Might I Have Side Effects From Radiation Therapy

There are two kinds of radiation side effects: early and late. Early side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, usually donât last long. They may start during or right after treatment and last for several weeks after it ends, but then they get better. Late side effects, such as lung or heart problems, may take years to show up and are often permanent when they do.

The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin problems. You might get others, such as hair loss and nausea, depending on where you get radiation.

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During Your Radiation Therapy

On the day of your first radiation treatment, youll start putting triamcinolone 0.1% ointment on your skin in the treatment area. This is a prescription ointment that will help protect your skin. Youll use it every day, once in the morning and once in the evening. This includes the days you dont have treatment. Your radiation nurse will give you more information about it before your first treatment.

Your radiation oncologist may also recommend using Mepitel® Film to protect your skin in the treatment area. If they do, put it on your skin in the treatment area before your first treatment. Keep it on until the edges start to peel up.

Youll stay in one position for about 10 to 20 minutes during each of your radiation treatments, depending on your treatment plan. If you think youll be uncomfortable lying still, you can take acetaminophen or your usual pain medication 1 hour before your appointments.

Drink Plenty Of Liquids

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Hydration is an important aspect of a healthy radiation diet. It is recommended that individuals drink 3-4 quarts of liquids every day. Drinking lots of water is especially important if you experience diarrhea during radiation therapy.

Keep a filled water bottle with you at all times and drink, drink, drink. Jello, pudding, popsicles and juice are additional hydration sources. If you do not care for the taste of water, try sneaking water into soup broths, fruit shakes, and flavored teas.

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How Long Does Tamoxifen Stay In Your System

Tamoxifen stays active in the body for about 1 to 2 weeks after your last dose but can take about 3 months to completely leave your system. How fast it leaves the body varies by person, but it sticks around longer than many other medications.

Its best to speak with your provider about when its safe to start drinking alcohol again after youve finished your full course of tamoxifen. Theyll be able to give you a more accurate answer based on your medical and prescription history.

Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy To Your Breast Or Chest Wall

You may have side effects from radiation therapy. The type and how strong they are depends on many things. These include the dose of radiation, the number of treatments, and your overall health. The side effects may be worse if youre also getting chemotherapy.

You may start to notice side effects about 2 weeks after you start radiation therapy. They may get worse during your radiation therapy, but theyll slowly get better over 6 to 8 weeks after your last treatment. Some side effects may take longer to go away. Follow the guidelines in this section to help manage your side effects during and after your radiation therapy.

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How Do I Prepare For My Treatments

Before your first radiation treatment, you will have a simulation appointment. This appointment will last approximately one to two hours. During this appointment, the doctor will identify the exact fields on your body to treat with radiation. This involves lying on a table while the radiation therapist marks the field with small dots made with permanent ink. Each dot is similar to a very small tattoo. You will not receive any radiation treatment during this appointment.

When Can I Start Drinking After Ive Stopped Taking Tamoxifen

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Tamoxifen is typically given for at least 5 years and in some cases up to 10 years, but this range can vary. This medication should only be stopped when your provider says it is OK to do so. Never stop your tamoxifen prescription so that you can drink alcohol. But if youve finished your full course of medication, you may be wondering when you can safely drink again.

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Does Drinking Alcohol Raise A Persons Cancer Risk

Drinking is associated with an increased risk of several types of cancers. Some of these risks derive from the directly toxic influence of one of alcohols metabolic or break down products called acetaldehyde. In animal experiments, acetaldehyde is a mutagenic substancemeaning it can alter a persons DNA which, over time, leads to cumulative cellular damage.1 In some instances, after this happens, cells undergo whats known as malignant transformationthey begin growing out of control and develop into cancerous tumors.1 Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of head and neck cancersespecially of the mouth, larynx, and esophagusas well as breast cancer and certain kinds of gastrointestinal malignancies. The less you drink, the lower these risks.2

According to the World Health Organization, around one third of cancer deaths are due to 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks, one of which is alcohol use.3 In the United States, alcohol use contributes to approximately 3.5% of all cancer deaths.4 Drinking increases the likelihood of six kinds of cancer: oropharyngeal , laryngeal , esophageal, rectal/colon, and breast .2 Heavy alcohol can also lead to an increased risk of liver inflammation and scarring such chronic liver disease lead to the development of hepatic cancer over time.5

Here are some links that can teach you more and help you get started.

Why Does Drinking Alcohol Increase The Risk Of Breast Cancer

Research is ongoing into exactly why alcohol increases breast cancer risk. Factors include:

  • Weight gain from empty calories: Heavy drinking often means consuming extra carbohydrates, which the body then stores as fat. Excess fat has been shown to increase the risk of cancer6.
  • Alcohols weakening effect on the immune system7: Heavy drinking compromises your bodys ability to fight off illnesses, including cancer. It also puts extra stress on your liver, which plays an important role in your immunity.
  • Oxidative stress8: Alcohol can increase the number of free radicals in your system, which can in turn damage your DNA, leading to cancer.
  • Increased estrogen9: As discussed above, most forms of alcohol result in higher estrogen production. Although this can have some positive health impacts, multiple studies have also linked this to increased breast cancer risk.

These are some of the most commonly referenced links between alcohol and breast cancer, but there may be more. Needless to say, drinking heavily increases your risk of cancer in general. Reducing how much you consume is a good idea for the health of your whole body.

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Damage To Body Tissues

Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. Cells that are damaged by the alcohol may try to repair themselves, which could lead to DNA changes that can be a step toward cancer.

Once in the body, alcohol can be converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical that can damage the DNA inside cells and has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.

Drinking alcohol can also lead to oxidative stress in cells, causing them to create more reactive oxygen species . These can lead to damage inside the cells that might increase the risk of cancer.

Alcohol and its byproducts can also damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring . As liver cells try to repair the damage, they can end up with mistakes in their DNA, which could lead to cancer.

Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy

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The most common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue. Most cancer patients treated with radiation report some degree of tiredness, from mild to profound.

External radiation often causes skin problems and burns.

But some patients experience side effects that affect their appetite, digestion, or the ability to eat. It depends on where they are treated, dose of radiation and duration of treatments.

For example, patients receiving radiation to the pelvis or abdomen area may have diarrhea, nausea and bloating.

Patients who are irradiated in the neck or chest may experience dry mouth or difficulty swallowing.

Side Effects Affecting Appetite, Digestion or Ability to Eat

  • nausea & vomiting
  • sores in mouth or throat
  • dry mouth
  • difficult to swallow
  • painful jaw

The focus of this post is not on radiation side effects. So, I havent listed all the possible side effects. I have only listed a few.

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When Should I Get Medical Attention

Rarely, side effects from tamoxifen can become severe or dangerous. These are times when you should contact your provider or get emergency help right away.

If blood clots become lodged in a blood vessel, it can be life-threatening. Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Swelling in the legs

  • Redness or pain in the leg

  • Skin that is hot to touch

  • Unexplained shortness of breath or fast breathing

  • A fast heart rate

  • Sudden dizziness or fainting

Uterine cancer can also be very serious. Be sure to go for your regular check-ups, so your provider can watch for early signs of this condition. Contact your provider right away if you notice any of the following warning signs:

  • Irregular or unusual monthly bleeding if you havent gone through menopause yet

  • Internal genital bleeding if youve gone through menopause

  • Pain around your hips or genitals

You should also watch for signs that your breast cancer has come back. Contact your provider as soon as possible if you notice any of the following:

  • Lumps in your breast or under the skin on your chest

  • A change to the way your breasts feel

  • Breast redness or swelling

  • Pain, stretching, or redness around scars on your chest

  • Constant pain around the chest, breasts, bones, or in other areas of the body

Avoid Foods That Protect Cancer Cells From Radiation Therapy

Sometimes the foods we eat can be so healthy that they also protect cancer cells too. Of course, we do not want this. Ever! We are trying to kill these horrible, evil cells. We definitely dont want to protect them from radiation.

Luckily, researchers are studying this too. They have found some foods that actually protect cancer cells from radiation effects. So, even though these foods can be healthy during normal times, it is best to avoid them during your radiation treatments.

Avoid these Foods that may Protect Cancer Cells from Radiation

  • parsley
  • vitamins and other supplements

Recentresearchinto the flavonoid antioxidant, genistein, found in soy and chickpeas, has lead me to remove these foods from the Dont Eat list. However, the type of lab research and lack of clinical trials into the positive effects of genistein on cancer radiation treatments makes me hesitate to include them on the Do Eat list.

I do think chickpeas and soy are good to eat when undergoing other cancer treatments. It is not clear if eating these foods will help in the case of radiation treatments. It may depend on the type of cancer, the type of food product , how much you are eating, along with other factors. As one paper stated: Cancers are complex diseases orchestrated by a plethora of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. And this includes the foods we eat.

I will continue to update you as the research progresses.

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Breast Cancer Food Guide

There is no specific diet that is recommended for people with breast cancer. Your nutrient needs may vary depending on many factors that include other medical diagnoses, your body weight, nutrient deficiencies, medications, and any symptoms that youre currently experiencing.

Your healthcare team, including a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition, can help you come up with an appropriate eating plan specific to your needs and overall health. The following foods are based on general recommendations to maintain overall health while living with breast cancer:

  • whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, protein sources like chicken and turkey, fatty fish like trout or salmon, and plant-based proteins sources like lentils and nuts
  • foods high in healthy fats and protein. If you need to maintain or gain weight, incorporate sources of healthy fat like nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive oil as well as protein sources like eggs, chicken, lentils, and fish. Protein-rich foods are especially important for maintaining muscle mass.
  • blended liquids such as milkshakes, smoothies, juices, or soups for those times when you dont feel like eating solid foods
  • high fiber foods like whole grains, flax seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits to treat constipation


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