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Does Radiation For Breast Cancer Cause Hair Loss

Urinary And Bladder Changes

Chemotherapy Hair Loss During Breast Cancer Treatment

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.

Why Chemo Causes Hair Loss

Hair loss is very common during chemotherapy for breast cancer as well as other cancers, though some drugs and methods of administration are more likely than others to disrupt hair follicles.

Chemotherapy drugs work systemically by interfering with the division and growth of rapidly growing cells.

While these drugs can be effective in eliminating cancer cells, they also damage normal cells that divide rapidly. This includes hair follicles , cells in the digestive tract , and cells in bone marrow .

The keratinocytes in the hair follicle divide faster than many malignant cells, and they have a good blood supply that delivers chemotherapy agents to them efficiently. Their fast metabolism also puts them under oxidative stress, which a chemotherapy drug can enhance to the point that the cell dies.

Whether or not you develop hair loss, and the degree to which you do if so, depends on a number of factors including:

  • The dose of chemotherapy: Higher doses generally have a greater risk for hair loss.
  • How often the chemotherapy is given: More frequent doses carry more risk.
  • The route of administration: Intravenous drugs are more likely to cause hair loss than oral drugs.
  • The drugs or combination of drugs you receive: Some are more likely to cause hair loss than others, and receiving a combination of drugs increases the risk.
  • Your individual makeup: Some people are more likely to lose hair than others, even with the same doses of the same drugs.

What Can I Do If Hair Loss Is Expected With My Radiation Therapy Treatment

Each person responds differently when learning that they may experience hair loss. There is no right or wrong response. Whatâs important is to do what you feel comfortable with, to do what is right for you. If you expect to lose the hair on your head during your cancer treatments, the following tips may be helpful:

  • If your hair is long, cutting it shorter may help decrease the impact of your hair loss when it occurs.
  • Some people find it easier to deal with hair loss by shaving their heads before hair loss occurs.
  • Be sure to protect your head with a hat to prevent sun exposure on sunny days- and not just in the summer months! This is especially important for men who are less likely to wear a wig or turban/scarf.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush and a gentle, pH-balanced shampoo.
  • Donât use hair dryers, hot rollers, or curling irons because they may damage your hair and make hair loss more severe.
  • Donât bleach or color your hair, and donât get a permanent. All of these make your hair brittle and may cause your hair to fall out faster.
  • Sleep on a satin pillowcase to decrease friction.

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How Radiation Treatments Affect The Skin

Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves to destroy cancer cells. It damages the DNA inside those cells, killing them off so they can no longer cause problems.

Unlike chemotherapy, radiation doesnt cause skin and hair problems all over, but it can affect the skin where the radiation treatment occurs. It has to pass through the skin to reach the area where the cancer lives, which means the skin may suffer some ill effects.

Common side effects of radiation treatment on the surrounding skin include the following:

  • Peeling skin
  • Skin color changes, usually darker or tanned looking
  • Burning sensation
  • Blistering

About Hair Loss From Treatment

Radiation Therapy Hair Loss

Some cancer treatments may make your hair fall out completely. This may be from your head and other parts of your body. This is usually temporary. Other treatments can cause permanent hair loss in specific areas of your body. Sometimes you may not lose all your hair, but your hair can become thinner or more likely to break .

There are practical steps you can take to reduce hair loss during treatment, including scalp cooling.

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Will My Appetite Be Affected

Many side effects can cause problems with eating and digesting food, but you always should try to eat enough to help damaged tissues rebuild themselves. It’s very important not to lose weight during radiation therapy so that your body can heal. Try to eat small meals often and eat a variety of different foods. Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether your treatment calls for a special diet and a dietitian will have a lot of ideas to help you maintain your weight.

If you have pain when you chew and swallow, your doctor may advise you to use a powdered or liquid diet supplement. Many of these products, available at the drugstore without prescription, are made in a variety of flavors. They are tasty when used alone, or they can be combined with other foods, such as pureed fruit, or added to milkshakes. Some of the companies that make diet supplements have produced recipe booklets to help you increase your nutrient intake. Ask your dietitian or pharmacist for further information.

What side effects occur with radiation therapy to the head and neck area? Some people who are having radiation to the head and neck have redness and irritation in the mouth, a dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing, changes in taste or nausea. Try not to let these symptoms keep you from eating.

Radiation Will Increase Your Chances Of Developing Breast Cancer Again

Happily, radiation therapy actually decreases the chances of developing breast cancer again. This therapy is targeted to one area of your body with a very low level of scatter. While events like the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima have had the radioactive power to increase the risk of breast cancer, the targeted version of radiation received in a medical environment actually has the opposite effect.

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How To Manage The Side Effects Of Radiation

Despite radiation therapy having side effects, there are ways by which we can alleviate them. Some are simple remedies, while others may need the evaluation and help of a doctor. For breast soreness or pain, common pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful. If the breast becomes red, itchy, or beings peeling, some creams can be used for relief.

Exercising and getting enough sleep can help combat fatigue. Short, simple exercises such as walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day can help alleviate this side effect. If fatigue or sleeping problems persist or lymphedema is evident, a doctor can help manage them.

Breast cancer is a very challenging illness, but we have many treatment options for people with it. Remember, no treatment is without side effects. It is crucial to be aware of these treatment options and their side effects to give the best management for every person.

What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Breast And Chest

Avoiding hair loss during Chemotherapy

Radiation treatment to the chest may cause several changes. You will notice some of these changes yourself, and your treatment team will keep an eye on these and others. For example, you may find swallowing to be difficult or painful. You may develop a cough. Or you may develop a fever, notice a change in the color or amount of mucus when you cough, or feel short of breath. It is important to let your treatment team know right away if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor also may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area on your body is large. Just keep in mind that your doctor and nurse will be alert for these changes and will help you deal with them.

Your radiation therapy plan may include implants of radioactive material a week or two after external treatment is completed. You may have some breast tenderness or a feeling of tightness while the implants are in your breast. After they are removed, you are likely to notice some of the same effects that occur with external treatment. If so, follow the advice given above and let your doctor know about any problems that persist.

After 10 to 12 months, no further changes are likely to be caused by the radiation therapy. If you see new changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, report them to your doctor at once.

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Managing Ongoing Hair Thinning

Breast cancer treatments such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy can cause some people to have ongoing mild to moderate hair loss. If youre concerned that your hair isnt growing back or is noticeably thinner than in the past, its a good idea to see a dermatologist. If possible, seek out one who specializes in hair loss or an onco-dermatologist who focuses on problems with the hair, skin, and nails that can develop during cancer treatment. The dermatologist will order blood tests to check whether there are other reasons for your hair loss besides the effects of breast cancer treatments. Thyroid problems, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors can play a role in hair loss.

For mild to moderate hair loss, dermatologists often recommend Rogaine , an over-the-counter medication that promotes hair growth. Its safe for people with a history of breast cancer and moderately effective. But check with your oncologist before you start using minoxidil. In most cases, you can use it while you take hormonal therapy or targeted therapy, but not during chemotherapy treatment. Look for products labeled 5% minoxidil foam that you apply to your scalp when your hair and scalp are dry. Its ok for women to use minoxidil products labeled for men. Minoxidil is thought to stimulate hair growth by, among other things, improving blood flow in the scalp and prolonging the growth phase of each hair follicle.

Change In Breast Shape Size And Colour

If youve had radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery, the breast tissue on the treated side may feel firmer than before, or the breast may be smaller and look different.

Although this is normal, you may be concerned about differences in the size of your breasts, or worry that the difference is noticeable when youre dressed.

You can discuss this with your breast surgeon to see if anything can be done to make the difference less noticeable.

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Radiation Therapy Timing And Breast Reconstruction

The timing of radiation treatment in your overall breast cancer treatment plan depends on your individual situation and the characteristics of the breast cancer.

In many cases, radiation therapy is given after surgery. If chemotherapy is planned after surgery, radiation usually follows chemotherapy.

If youre having mastectomy and have decided to have breast reconstruction, its important to know that radiation can cause a reconstructed breast to lose volume and change color, texture, and appearance.

In particular, radiation therapy is known to cause complications with implant reconstruction. Research also suggests that a reconstructed breast may interfere with radiation therapy reaching the area affected by cancer, though this can vary on a case-by-case basis.

For these reasons, some surgeons advise waiting until after radiation and other treatments, such as chemotherapy, are completed before breast reconstruction surgery is done.

Other surgeons may recommend a more staged approach, which places a tissue expander after mastectomy to preserve the shape of the breast during radiation treatments. Once radiation is completed and the tissues have recovered, the expander that was used to maintain the shape of the breast is removed and replaced with tissue from another part of the body or a breast implant.

What Changes In My Breast Should I Expect After Having Radiation For Cancer

Hair Loss After Chemo

This article has been archived. We will no longer be updating it. For our most up-to-date information, please visit our breast cancer information here.

Q:

What changes in my breast should I expect after having radiation for cancer?

A:

Many women diagnosed with breast cancer undergo radiation therapy. Radiation can be given following a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or prior to these surgeries in order to shrink the tumor. Although radiation is a localized treatment, aimed only at the cancerous area of your breast, some normal tissue will be affected, and regardless of when during the course of your breast cancer treatment you receive radiation therapy, you may experience one or more side effects due to the high-energy x-rays.

Your breast may feel sore, heavy and appear swollen, due to build-up of fluid, or it might actually shrink a bit as a result of fibrous tissue developing in the radiated area. The skin may be more or less sensitive to touch, and the breast might feel firmer or thicker than normal.

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Talking With Your Health Care Team About Hair Loss

Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:

  • Is treatment likely to cause my hair to fall out?
  • How should I protect and care for my head? Are there products that you recommend? Ones I should avoid?
  • Where can I get a wig or hairpiece?
  • What support groups could I meet with that might help?
  • When will my hair grow back?

Hormonal And Targeted Therapies A Glance At Hair Loss And Hair Changes

In relation to hormonal and targeted and possible hair loss/hair thinning or hair changes, its important to check side effects of your specific regime. Your nurse or doctor can give you specific information.

Any hair loss tends to be described as mild thinning and does not commonly result in vast hair thinning or total hair loss. Unlike some commonly known chemotherapy treatments, the vast majority of hormonal and targeted therapies dont cause total hair loss.

The hair normally grows back after treatment but can sometimes remain thinner.

Some therapies may cause hair changes such as hair to become curlier, more brittle or a change in texture. Some people notice changes to their skin such as the skin on their scalp may become drier.

We are here to support you with guidance and ideas.

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Risk Of Leukemia After Chemotherapy Or Radiation Therapy For Early

Chemotherapy affects normal, healthy cells as well as breast cancer cells. This is why chemotherapy can cause hair loss, anemia, and diarrhea. In rare cases, exposing normal cells to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause a new, different type of cancer to develop many years after treatment.

Radiation therapy uses a special kind of high-energy beam to damage cancer cells. Over time, radiation damages cells that are in the path of its beam — normal cells as well as cancer cells. But cancer cells are more affected by radiation than normal cells because theyre less organized. Normal cells are better able to repair themselves and survive the treatment.

While the risk of developing leukemia after radiation therapy or chemotherapy to treat early-stage breast cancer is VERY small, a large study suggests that this risk is twice as high as has been reported.

Most of women in the study had treatment after surgery:

Things To Know About Chemotherapy

New Treatment Helps With Hair Loss Associated With Breast Cancer Treatment

Starting chemotherapy for the first time? If you are new to this common cancer treatment, youâre probably wondering how chemotherapy works, if you will lose your hair or even if chemotherapy hurts.

We spoke with , to learn more. Heres what she had to say.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a group of medications that can shrink or destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is used in a variety of ways. It may be given to rid the body of cancer, to shrink cancer so that surgery can be performed, or to control the disease and prolong someones life as long as possible.

How does chemotherapy work?

There are multiple types of chemotherapy, and each kind works a bit differently. In general, chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy alters a cancer cells ability to grow or replicate itself. It can cause the cancer cell to die by not functioning properly or stop it from spreading by interfering with its ability to reproduce.

How are chemotherapy drugs usually given?

Most chemotherapy drugs are given through an IV, but some are injected into muscle, under the skin or directly into the spinal fluid. Other chemotherapy drugs can be swallowed in pill form.

Chemotherapy is often given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs or with other treatments, such as targeted therapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.

Does chemotherapy hurt?

What are the most common side effects of chemotherapy?

Am I going to lose my hair?

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