Managing Sexual Side Effects
Each type of cancer treatmentchemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormonal therapycan cause possible sexual side effects. Side effects may vary depending on the type of cancer, the specific mode of treatment, and the individual’s response to treatment. Talk to your healthcare team about what you should expect from treatment.
Lack of Desire
During and after cancer treatment, many women report a lack of sexual desire. Lack of desire may come from hormonal changes such as early menopause or other side effects, making sex unenjoyable.
- Rethink what sex and intimacy mean.
- Do not expect sex after cancer to be exactly the same as sex before cancer. Your body has been through a lot of changes.
- Be patient. It may take some time to discover what is comfortable and pleasurable for you.
What To Use Instead Of Aloe Vera
Its clear that there are no benefits as far as aloe vera is concerned in post-radiation treatment. However, this doesnt mean that there arent any solutions to dealing with radiodermatitis and its painful side effects.
Its important to find something that is not just marketed for burns, but is actually formulated for post-radiation treatment and has scientific studies to back up their claims. Companies such as CamWell provide safe, oncologist-formulated solutions when it comes to radiation burn cream. Specifically, CamWells products are built on the following:
- Superior quality, non-toxic botanical creams that are formulated based on Western science and the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Comprised of herbs that have been successfully used in TCM for thousands of years, harvested in their natural habitats in the rural regions of China
- Pharmaceutical grade packaging to ensure no chemicals or toxins leak into creams
Perhaps most important, CamWells products and claims are backed up with clinical trials, proving their effectiveness.
In these trials, 39 patients suffering from breast and lung cancer were treated with a CamWell product utilizing TCM, while 35 were from a control group. After using the product, 69.2 percent of the patients treated with the CamWell product reported a complete response to the therapy, and 25.6 percent reported a measurable improvement over the discomfort they had been feeling.
Please Keep Your Dental Team Informed About Your Treatment
If you are being treated for breast cancer, it is essential that you inform your dentist. This is because there are many medications used in the treatment of this disease which may impact both on your oral health and the dental treatments that may be required.
For example, the use of chemotherapeutic drugs may affect the rate of healing following a surgical procedure. Most patients receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy however, some patients use bisphosphonates such as Fosamax, Actonel, Prolia, and others. The reason that some women take medication such as this is because breast cancer treatments can cause bone osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates actually assist with maintaining bone strength and help with osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, this important treatment doesnt come without risks. Recent studies from the University of Southern California suggest long-term use of bisphosphonates may cause destruction of the jaw bone. This condition is called BRONJ Bisphosphonate-Related OsteoNecrosis of the Jaw. Essentially, the bone loses its ability to heal properly. A wound in the bone may not heal completely. Infection or necrosis may follow. While the risk of this is low, it can increase with chemotherapy.
Therefore, dental treatments and procedures that require bone healing should precede intravenous bisphosphonate therapy. Patients should understand the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and having regular dental assessments. You can read more about this here.
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External Radiation Therapy Side Effects
One of the main side effects of external radiation therapy is skin changes in the treated area.
The reaction is much like a sunburn, with redness and possible itching, burning, soreness, peeling, blisters, or darkening of the skin. These skin changes happen gradually over the course of treatment and may happen only in certain areas.
Places where skin touches skin, such as the armpit and the area under the breasts, and places where you may have had a lot of sun exposure, such as the upper chest, are more likely to be affected. Some people have a change in skin color that lasts for years after treatment.
Some people may have telangiectasias develop months to years after radiation to the breast. A telangiectasia is a small patch of tiny blood vessels on the skin of the treated area that looks like a tangle of thin red lines. Telangiectasias are not a sign of cancer recurrence, but they can sometimes cause bothersome symptoms such as itching or pain. If you develop telangiectasia after radiation therapy and wish to treat it, you can talk to a dermatologist about laser therapy or other treatments.
You may be more likely to have significant skin side effects if you have fair skin, larger breasts, certain health conditions that affect skin healing , or had mastectomy or chemotherapy before radiation.
Other common side effects of external radiation therapy are:
- swelling in the breast
Other, less common side effects that external radiation may cause are:
External Beam Radiation Used For Oral And Oropharyngeal Cancers
External beam radiation therapy is the type of radiation therapy most often used to treat oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer or its spread to other organs. It focuses radiation from a source outside the body onto the cancer.
Before EBRT, a somewhat flexible but sturdy mesh head and neck mask might be made to hold your head, neck, and shoulders in the exact same position for each treatment. Some people might feel a bit confined while this mask is on and might need to ask for medicine to help them relax during the treatment. Sometimes, the mask can be adjusted so that it is not too constricting. Discuss your options with your radiation oncologist. You might also be fitted for a bite block that you hold in your mouth during treatment
Treatment is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation dose is stronger. The procedure itself is without pain and each treatment lasts only a few minutes. The setup time often takes longer.
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Treatment Of Onj Usually Includes Treating The Infection And Good Dental Hygiene
Treatment of ONJ may include the following:
- Removing the infected tissue, which may include bone. Laser surgery may be used.
- Smoothing sharp edges of exposed bone.
- Using antibiotics to fight infection.
- Using medicated mouth rinses.
- Using pain medicine.
During treatment for ONJ, you should continue to brush and floss after meals to keep your mouth very clean. It is best to avoid tobacco use while ONJ is healing.
You and your doctor can decide whether you should stop using medicines that cause ONJ, based on the effect it would have on your general health.
Oral Health Effects Of Breast Cancer Therapy
Remaining up to date on breast cancer treatments and their implications is integral to advising this population on maintaining their oral health.
This course was published in the June 2021 issue and expires June 2024. The authors have no commercial conflicts of interest to disclose. This 2 credit hour self-study activity is electronically mediated.
After reading this course, the participant should be able to:
Breast cancer is caused by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells, resulting in tumor formation. Approximately one in eight women will develop a form of breast cancer, making it the second most common cancer among women in the United States.1 The treatment of breast cancer can cause deleterious side effects, and oral health professionals should be prepared to help patients maintain their oral health and help mitigate negative signs and symptoms.
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Why Do I Feel Fatigued
During radiation therapy, the body uses a lot of energy healing itself. Stress related to your illness, daily trips for treatment, and the effects of radiation on normal cells all may contribute to fatigue. Most people begin to feel tired after a few weeks of radiation therapy. Feelings of weakness or weariness will go away gradually after your treatment is finished, says Dr. Wilson.
You can help yourself during radiation therapy by not trying to do too much. If you feel tired, limit your activities and use your leisure time in a restful way. Do not feel that you have to do all the things you normally do. Try to get more sleep at night, and rest during the day if you can.
If you have been working a full-time job, you may want to continue. Although treatment visits are time consuming, you can ask your doctor’s office or the radiation therapy department to help by scheduling treatments with your workday in mind.
Some patients prefer to take a few weeks off from work while they’re receiving radiation therapy others work a reduced number of hours. You may want to have a frank conversation with your employer about your needs and wishes during this time. You may be able to agree on a part-time schedule, or perhaps you can do some work at home.
What Should I Expect On My First Visit
When radiation therapy might be of help, a family doctor, surgeon or medical oncologist will refer patients to a radiation oncologist.
The doctor will first review your medical records and X-rays. A physical exam will be done.
The doctors will then talk to you about his/her findings and decide how you should be treated. If radiation will help you, the staff will schedule the needed studies to develop a treatment plan. This is sometimes referred to as simulation.
During simulation, the therapist takes X-rays of the part of your body to be treated to help decide how the radiation will be given. Using the X-ray as a guide to the treatment site, the therapist uses a marker to outline the treatment area on your skin. This area is often called a treatment port or treatment field. These marks are very important. They act as a map of the treatment area and the therapist uses them each day to guide your treatment. Sometimes after a few treatments, tiny permanent dots can be used to replace the painted marks on your skin.
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What To Expect During Radiation Treatments
Treatments are usually given five days a week for six to seven weeks. If the goal of treatment is palliative treatment will last 2-3 weeks in length. Using many small doses for daily radiation, rather than a few large doses, helps to protect the healthy cells in the treatment area. The break from treatment on weekends allows the normal cells to recover.
It is very important to finish all sessions of radiation therapy. It is important not to miss or delay treatments because it can lessen how well the radiation kills tumor cells.
The radiation therapy technologist may ask you to change into a gown before treatment. It is a good idea to wear clothing that is easy to pull down, adjust, or remove when coming for treatments.
During the actual treatment sessions you will be in the treatment room between 10-30 minutes. You will be receiving radiation for 1-2 minutes of that time.
You will be asked to lie on a hard, moveable bed. The RTT will use the marks on your skin to exactly position the machine and table. In some instances, special blocks or shields are used to protect normal organs. You may be positioned using special holders, molds or boards.
It is extremely important to remain still during the radiation treatments. Breathe normally during treatments. You do not need to hold your breath. You will not feel anything during the treatment. Radiation is painless. You will not see, hear, or smell radiation.
Oral Complications Are Common In Cancer Patients Especially Those With Head And Neck Cancer
Complications are new medical problems that occur during or after a disease, procedure, or treatment and that make recovery harder. The complications may be side effects of the disease or treatment, or they may have other causes. Oral complications affect the mouth.
Cancer patients have a high risk of oral complications for a number of reasons:
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy slow or stop the growth of new cells.
These cancer treatments slow or stop the growth of fast growing cells, such as cancer cells. Normal cells in the lining of the mouth also grow quickly, so anticancer treatment can stop them from growing, too. This slows down the ability of oral tissue to repair itself by making new cells.
- Radiation therapy may directly damage and break down oral tissue, salivary glands, and bone.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.
There are many different kinds of bacteria in the mouth. Some are helpful and some are harmful. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause changes in the lining of the mouth and the salivary glands, which make saliva. This can upset the healthy balance of bacteria. These changes may lead to mouth sores, infections, and tooth decay.
This summary is about oral complications caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
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The Following Recommendations Are Important To Follow:
- Brush with a soft toothbrush or sponge brush to clean your teeth and gums.
- Floss gently.
- Only use alcohol-free mouthwash, preferably one free of saccharin, but one containing xylitol.
- When white blood cells counts are reported by your physician to be low, avoid dental treatment.
- Avoid dental treatment for about a week after chemotherapy.
- Inflammation starts with red gums that may bleed. Even slight bleeding should not be ignored.
- Use toothpaste and chewing gum with xylitol.
- Regular dental visits to identify problems before they develop.
- If you wear dentures, make sure you keep them clean and that they fit well. Make sure to take them out at night.
To our patients, friends, and families, this month we honor and remember those who have lost their battle, are currently fighting and who have survived. Please remember to schedule your mammogram and to perform routine self exams. If you or someone you know will be receiving treatment for cancer, please contact our office to schedule a consultation prior to and after your treatment. We have assisted several of our patients through this difficult and honestly scary time in their life and having the expertise to handle these very sensitive life situations. We are truly committed to your comfort.
Mai-Ly Ramirez, DDS, Dan Gustavson, DDS & Your Fountains Dental Excellence Team
Talking To Your Partner About Sex
Being able to talk openly with your partner about sex is very important. What worked for you both before cancer may not work now. You may need to try different things to find what works for you both. If it has been a while since you’ve been intimate, start slowly with simple kissing and touching. Here are some basic guidelines for talking to your partner:
- Be honest.
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Oral Devices Need Special Care During High
The following can help in the care and use of dentures, braces, and other oral devices during high-dose chemotherapy or stem cell transplant:
- Have brackets, wires, and retainers removed before high-dose chemotherapy begins.
- Wear dentures only when eating during the first 3 to 4 weeks after the transplant.
- Brush dentures twice a day and rinsing them well.
- Soak dentures in an antibacterial solution when they are not being worn.
- Clean denture soaking cups and changing denture soaking solution every day.
- Remove dentures or other oral devices when cleaning your mouth.
- Continue your regular oral care 3 or 4 times a day with dentures or other devices out of the mouth.
- If you have mouth sores, avoid using removable oral devices until the sores have healed.
My Role In Fighting Breast Cancer
As a healthcare provider, I am invested in your overall well-being. As a board-certified periodontist, I’m best qualified to detect oral infection and inflammation that could potentially affect breast health and may not be obvious to a patient.
If our comprehensive periodontal examination finds gum disease, we’ll create a treatment plan to clean away bacteria and infection around your teeth and below your gum line reduce inflammation and reduce the chances of periodontal disease recurring.
Half of all American adults have periodontal disease and many are unaware. Making the correct diagnosis and getting treatment has become even more crucial as we see how it can effect overall health.
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Preventing And Controlling Oral Complications Can Help You Continue Cancer Treatment And Have A Better Quality Of Life
Sometimes treatment doses need to be decreased or treatment stopped because of oral complications. Preventive care before cancer treatment begins and treating problems as soon as they appear may make oral complications less severe. When there are fewer complications, cancer treatment may work better and you may have a better quality of life.