What Should I Expect After Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer
You may notice fatigue as well as skin changes while undergoing radiation therapy. Your skin may become irritated, tender and swollen . People with fair skin may develop a red sunburn appearance. People with dark skin may notice darkening of the skin. This condition can also cause dry, itchy, flaky skin. Your skin may peel as you get close to finishing treatments . This skin irritation is temporary. Your provider can prescribe creams or medications to ease discomfort, if needed.
Skin discoloration can persist after treatment ends. Some people with fair skin have a slight pink or tan appearance for several years. You may also see tiny blood vessels in the radiated area. These vessels look like thin red lines or threads. These are not cause for concern.
Treatment For Breast Cancer
There are many options to treat breast cancer, depending on the type and severity of the cancer. As some forms of breast cancer are very aggressive and invasive, treatment usually consists of combining different treatment options. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy. It all depends on the stage and invasiveness of the cancer. For some forms, conservative surgery may be done first, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.
What Is Breast Cancer
Cancer is a disease wherein the cells lose regulations in cell division and continuously replicate. This uncontrolled growth and division of cells form a mass which is known as a tumor. Breast cancer occurs when these abnormal cells are found in the breast. The most common cells affected are the lining of the milk ducts. Usually, a mass is felt in the breast, but invasive breast cancer can spread through the blood or the lymphatic system and be transported throughout the body. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. It is second to lung cancer as the highest cause of cancer-related death among women.
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Taxotere Lawsuit: I Was Not Warned
Dodson is one of more than a thousand women who have sued Sanofi over allegations that the company failed to adequately warn breast cancer patients that Taxotere causes permanent hair loss.
I meet women all the time who are suffering varying degrees of hair loss from Taxotere, and some of them have heard about the lawsuit a lot of them havent, Dodson said. There are thousands more who just havent realized. It took me five years to realize this was permanent and no amount of specialty shampoo was going to help. There are a lot of women who have been harmed.
More than 1,600 Taxotere lawsuits are pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana under what is known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL. Four of those cases are expected to go to trial in 2019.
Lawsuits say Sanofi-Aventis sold Taxotere without properly testing it, failed to determine whether the drug was safe and manufactured a dangerous drug. Plaintiffs also allege the company misled the public in advertising and marketing, downplayed the dangers associated with the drug and kept information from the public.
I have a piece of paper where I jotted down notes when I was talking to my oncologist in 2010 about the various side effects of the different chemos he was suggesting to me, and I wrote down Taxotere: short-term hair loss, Dodson said. I wrote down all kinds of very specific details and nowhere on that page does it mention possible permanent hair loss. I was not warned.
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Nerve Damage Around The Treatment Area
Scaring from radiotherapy may cause nerve damage in the arm on the treated side. This can develop many years after your treatment. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness. In some people, it may cause some loss of movement in the arm and shoulder.
Speak to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Abdomen
If you are getting radiation to your stomach or some part of the abdomen , you may have side effects such as:
Eating or avoiding certain foods can help with some of these problems, so diet planning is an important part of radiation treatment of the stomach or abdomen. Ask your cancer care team about what you can expect, and what medicines you should take to help relieve these problems. Check with your cancer care team about any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs youre thinking about using.
These problems should get better when treatment is over.
Some people feel queasy for a few hours right after radiation therapy. If you have this problem, try not eating for a couple of hours before and after your treatment. You may handle the treatment better on an empty stomach. If the problem doesnt go away, ask your cancer care team about medicines to help prevent and treat nausea. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as you are told to do.
If you notice nausea before your treatment, try eating a bland snack, like toast or crackers, and try to relax as much as possible. See Nausea and Vomiting to get tips to help an upset stomach and learn more about how to manage these side effects.
D Techniques And Imrt
One of the first major advancements in radiotherapy that resulted in reduced doses to normal tissues is the use of 3D imaging for the design of the radiation plan. Radiotherapy based on computed tomography-simulation with treatment planning software and image verification of patient setup allows for more accurate estimation of target and organ dosimetry. 3D planning allows for adjustment of the radiation beam angle and the addition of in field blocks to reduce underlying lung and heart dose. In addition to a static cardiac block, field-in-field techniques have shown the greatest reduction in cardiac dose, but both forward-planning and IMRT have both been employed . These techniques result in lower volumes of heart receiving high and low doses as well as a reduced complication rates. These techniques also minimize dose inhomogeneity that results in areas that receive higher than the prescribed dose within the breast tissue and at the surface of the breast leading to decreased acute skin toxicity.
How We Protect Breast Cancer Patients Hearts During Radiation Therapy
Many breast cancer patients undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment. While radiation therapy often comes with side effects, such as skin irritation and fatigue, patients with left-sided breast cancer have an added concern: potential for heart disease.
Years ago, researchers discovered that many patients who underwent radiation therapy to the left breast later developed heart conditions, including pericardial disease, conduction abnormalities, coronary artery disease, congestive heart disease, heart valve disease and even sudden cardiac death. Scientists linked these problems to the hearts exposure to radiation during treatment. Thats why MD Anderson now takes extra precautions to protect patients hearts during radiation therapy. Our goal is to offer state-of-the-art radiation therapy for breast cancer without increasing the risk of long-term heart issues.
How we protect the heart during radiation therapy
Here are four methods that we use at MD Anderson to reduce the risk of radiation-induced heart disease.
Multi-leaf collimation: Our linear accelerator machines are equipped with a special shield to protect the heart from radiation exposure. This shield has multiple leafs that can move independently in and out of the path of the radiation beam to allow the radiation to target cancer cells while protecting nearby healthy tissue.
How we determine the best method for you
Focus on a healthy lifestyle
What Kind Of Treatment Follow
The major goal of follow-up is, if possible, to detect and treat recurrences in the irradiated breast or lymph nodes and new cancers developing later in either breast before they can spread to other parts of the body. Theroutine use of bone scans, chest x-rays, blood tests and other tests to detect the possible spread to other organs in patients without symptoms does not appear to be useful. Your physician will determine a follow-upschedule for you. This may include a physical exam every few months for the first several years after treatment and then every six to 12 months or so after that. Annual follow-up mammograms are an important part of your care. If symptoms or clinical circumstances suggest a recurrence, diagnostic tests such as blood tests, ultrasound,computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , chest x-ray , or bone scan may be needed.
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Is The Radiation From Cell Phones Harmful
Cell phones emit radiation in the radiofrequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Second-, third-, and fourth-generation cell phones emit radiofrequency in the frequency range of 0.72.7 GHz. Fifth-generation cell phones are anticipated to use the frequency spectrum up to 80 GHz.
These frequencies all fall in the nonionizing range of the spectrum, which is low frequency and low energy. The energy is too low to damage DNA. By contrast, ionizing radiation, which includes x-rays, radon, and cosmic rays, is high frequency and high energy. Energy from ionizing radiation can damage DNA. DNA damage can cause changes to genes that may increase the risk of cancer.
The human body does absorb energy from devices that emit radiofrequency radiation. The only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency radiation absorption in humans that the general public might encounter is heating to the area of the body where a cell phone is held . However, that heating is not sufficient to measurably increase body temperature. There are no other clearly established dangerous health effects on the human body from radiofrequency radiation.
Why The Procedure Is Performed
After surgery, cancer cells may remain in the breast tissue or lymph nodes. Radiation can help kill the remaining cancer cells. When radiation is delivered after surgery is performed, it is called adjuvant treatment.
Adding radiation therapy can kill the remaining cancer cells and lower the risk of the cancer growing back.
Wholebreast radiation therapy may be given for several different cancer types:
- For ductal carcinoma in situ
- For stage I or II breast cancer, after lumpectomy or partial mastectomy
- For more advanced breast cancer, sometimes even after full mastectomy
- For cancer that has spread to local lymph nodes
- For widespread breast cancer, as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms
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Breast Cancer: Types Of Treatment
Have questions about breast cancer? Ask here.
ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different types of treatments doctors use for people with breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.
This section explains the types of treatments that are the standard of care for early-stage and locally advanced breast cancer. Standard of care means the best treatments known. When making treatment plan decisions, you are strongly encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study that tests a new approach to treatment. Doctors want to learn whether the new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials can test a new drug and how often it should be given, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Some clinical trials also test giving less treatment than what is usually done as the standard of care. Clinical trials are an option to consider for treatment and care for all stages of cancer. Your doctor can help you consider all your treatment options. Learn more about clinical trials in the About Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections of this guide.
What Is External Beam Radiation Therapy
During external beam radiation therapy, a beam of radiation is directed through the skin to the cancer and the immediate surrounding area in order to destroy the main tumor and any nearby cancer cells. To minimize side effects, the treatments are typically given five days a week, Monday through Friday, for a number of weeks. This allows doctors to get enough radiation into the body to kill the cancer while giving healthy cells time each day to recover.
The radiation beam is usually generated by a machine called a linear accelerator. The linear accelerator, or linac, is capable of producing high-energy X-rays and electrons for the treatment of your cancer. Using high-tech treatment planning software, your treatment team controls the size and shape of the beam, as well as how it is directed at your body, to effectively treat your tumor while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Several special types of external beam therapy are discussed in the next sections. These are used for specific types of cancer, and your radiation oncologist will recommend one of these treatments if he or she believes it will help you.
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What Our Experts Say
The benefits of mammograms nearly always outweigh the potential harms that come from radiation exposure. However, undergoing repeated mammogram screenings can potentially cause cancer.
It should be noted that there has never been a case of breast cancer that has been proven to have been caused by mammograms.
The risk of harm from radiation is low and mammogram machines use lower doses of radiation than x-rays of other parts of the body like bones.
Mammogram machines tend to be highly regulated in nations with strong national health agencies and regulatory bodies. The very small amount of radiation used during mammograms is equal to roughly 2 – 6 months of what is known as background radiation for the average person. Background radiation is radiation that is naturally present in the environment at a particular pace that is not due to unnatural radiation sources.
Modern mammograms use a type of radiation called ionizing radiation in the form of x-ray beams. In the United States, people are exposed to roughly 3 millisieverts per year in their daily lives. This number can differ in other countries.
For context, a mammogram with two views of the right and left breast causes about 0.4 millisieverts to be used, though this number can be lower or higher depending on the device.
At this point in time, mammograms are the best screening tools we have in general for breast cancer but they do have limitations including imperfect accuracy and radiation exposure.
Complementary And Alternative Medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that are not standard cancer treatments. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments, and alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Meditation, yoga, and supplements like vitamins and herbs are some examples.
Many kinds of complementary and alternative medicine have not been tested scientifically and may not be safe. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before you start any kind of complementary or alternative medicine.
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What Are Common Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is called a local treatment. This means that it only affects the area of the body that is targeted. For example, radiation therapy to the scalp may cause hair loss. But people who have radiation therapy to other parts of their body do not usually lose the hair on their head.
Common physical side effects of radiation therapy include:
Skin changes. Some people who receive radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling. These side effects depend on which part of the body received radiation therapy and other factors. Skin changes from radiation therapy usually go away a few weeks after treatment ends. If skin damage becomes a serious problem, your doctor may change your treatment plan. Lotion may help with skin changes, but be sure to check with your nurse or other health care team about which cream they recommend and when to apply it. It is also best to protect affected skin from the sun. Learn more about skin-related side effects.
Fatigue. Fatigue is a term used to describe feeling tired or exhausted almost all the time. Many patients experience fatigue. Your level of fatigue often depends on your treatment plan. For example, radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may result in more fatigue. Learn how to cope with fatigue.
What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Stomach And Abdomen
If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some portion of the abdomen, you may experience an upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to relieve these problems. Do not take any home remedies during your treatment unless you first check with your doctor or nurse.
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Has The Incidence Of Brain And Central Nervous System Cancers Changed During The Time Cell Phone Use Increased
- stable incidence rates for adult gliomas in the United States , Nordic countries and Australia during the past several decades
- stable incidence rates for pediatric brain tumors in the United States during 19932013
- stable incidence rates for acoustic neuroma , which are benign tumors, and meningioma , which are usually benign, among US adults since 2009
In addition, studies using cancer incidence data have tested different scenarios determining whether the incidence trends are in line with various levels of risk as reported in studies of cell phone use and brain tumors between 1979 and 2008 . These simulations showed that many risk changes reported in case-control studies were not consistent with incidence data, implying that biases and errors in the study may have distorted the findings.
Because these studies examine cancer incidence trends over time in populations rather than comparing risk in people who do and dont use cell phones, their ability to observe potential small differences in risk among heavy users or susceptible populations is limited. Observational/epidemiologic studiesincluding casecontrol and cohort studies are designed to measure individual exposure to cell phone radiation and ascertain specific health outcomes.