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How Bad Is Chemo For Breast Cancer

How Often Is Chemotherapy Given For Breast Cancer

Chemo Round #2— Having some fun with our new do’s!!

Chemotherapy for breast cancer is given in cycles, usually 2 to 3 weeks long, with a short break in between. This gives the body time to recover after receiving chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy is only given on one day per cycle, while others are given on multiple days per cycle. For example, gemcitabine is often given on day 1, day 8, and day 15 of an overall 28-day treatment cycle .

A chemotherapy schedule depends on the type of chemotherapy medications given. Chemotherapy is usually given over 3 to 6 months, or longer in some cases, depending on the type and stage of breast cancer. If you experience bothersome side effects or the treatment is no longer working, you may need to switch treatment to a different chemotherapy or therapy option.

Are There Ways To Prevent Hair Loss With Chemotherapy

Not everyone loses hair when receiving chemotherapy, but many people do. Some peoples hair only thins. Others lose the majority or all of their hair.

Using a cold cap can reduce hair loss. Cold caps cool your scalp before, during and after chemotherapy treatment. Cooling tightens the blood vessels in your scalp, potentially reducing how much chemotherapy goes to your hair follicles.

People may choose to wear a wig as a result of hair loss. Some private insurance companies may help cover wig costs if your doctor prescribes a cranial prosthesis or hair prosthesis. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover wigs, but the costs may be tax-deductible.

What Are Late Effects

Most women have side effects during treatment for breast cancer and for a few weeks after treatment ends. Usually, these side effects get better slowly and then stop. But sometimes side effects do not go away. Or they can develop months or years after treatment.

There are two commonly used terms for these side effects:

  • Long-term effects Long-term effects begin during, or shortly after, treatment. They last for more than 6 months after treatment has finished. They may go away on their own, with symptoms getting better over 1 or 2 years after treatment. Or they may be permanent.
  • Late effects Late effects are a delayed reaction to treatment. They do not appear during treatment, but can happen months or even years later.

In this information, we use the term late effects to describe both long-term and late effects.

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Foods To Avoid During Cancer Treatment

If your treatment has caused side effects like nausea, taste changes, or mouth sores, you probably have already started your own mental list of foods you’d much rather steer clear of. However, there are some foods that no matter how good they sound are probably best avoided due to the risk of foodborne illness, aka food poisoning. Because some treatments can weaken your immune system until at least a few weeks after theyve ended , food poisoning is not something to tempt. The results of developing a foodborne illness can be serious.

Eating raw or undercooked foods is a common cause of food poisoning. Proper cooking destroys bacteria, but they can start to grow on cooked food if it is left out or in the refrigerator for too long. Food also can become contaminated when someone infected with a virus or other bug handles it.

Paying attention to food safety rules and being extra careful when handling, preparing, and storing food is definitely important. However, some people who are receiving or have recently finished cancer treatment should avoid some foods entirely, even if they may have eaten them with no problems in the past. These include:

What Happens During Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

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Most people receive chemotherapy for breast cancer through one of their veins . You may receive chemotherapy as one short injection or as an infusion. Infusions last longer and usually take place in a hospital or specialized infusion center.

When you get to the infusion center, your nurse administers your chemotherapy drugs and any additional medications you need. For example, you may also receive an anti-nausea medication before the chemotherapy drugs.

During the infusion:

  • Your nurse accesses your CVC or starts an IV.
  • You may read, watch television or visit with others during your treatment. Chemotherapy infusions may last a few hours or more.
  • Your nurse flushes the IV line or CVC with a saline solution and removes it.
  • You wait in a recovery area for about 30 minutes to make sure you do not have a negative reaction to treatment.
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    How You Have Chemotherapy

    You usually have treatment into your bloodstream .

    You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

    • central line
    • PICC line
    • portacath

    If you don’t have a central line you might have treatment through a thin short tube . The cannula goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

    Ac Chemo Red Devil Chemo

    I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about AC chemo and what does chemo do. Some people think chemo side effects are limited to vomiting and chemotherapy hair loss. Unfortunately, for some at least, that is the tip of the iceberg. Although perhaps its a sign chemo is working.

    Ive had major internal struggles with how much I want to tell you about my chemo experience.

    On one hand, I want to be completely honest, with full disclosure. On the other hand, Im nervous about potentially scaring others who might end up undergoing AC chemo themselves. I would hate to add to the complications of chemotherapy horror stories already online. I wanted mine to be one of the positive chemotherapy personal stories too.

    Ive decided to share my experience fully but I caveat it with this: this is my experience and these are my symptoms. There is absolutely no guarantee that anyone else will experience things in the same way. The next person might have way less, or more, common side effects of chemotherapy on the body.

    I want to be brave but I want to be honest too.

    If youre sensitive to reading about illness then please dont read on. If you want to gain an insight into what Im truly going through each cycle, please stay. This is the truth about chemotherapy for me.

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    Coping With Late Effects

    There are many things that can be done to manage or treat late effects. It is important that you do not feel you have to cope with them without getting help.

    Late effects may be minor and not affect your daily life much. Or, they may be more difficult to live with and affect your daily life more. There are usually a lot of things that can help you cope with them to live life as well as you can. Some late effects improve over time and may eventually go away on their own.

    If side effects do not go away after treatment, or if you develop late effects, always let your cancer doctor or specialist nurse know. You can contact your specialist nurse even if you no longer have follow-up appointments with a doctor. You can also contact your GP.

    The breast care team can assess your symptoms. They will explain whether they could be caused by treatment and how to manage them.

    Some late effects may be similar to the symptoms you had when you were first diagnosed. This can be scary, and you may worry the cancer has come back.

    Sometimes symptoms are caused by other conditions not related to the cancer or its treatment. Your doctor may arrange tests to find out more about the cause of your symptoms.If you are unable to work because of late effects, you may be entitled to some benefits.

    Is Early Menopause A Risk Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

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    Yes. If you have not gone through menopause, chemotherapy may stop your ovaries from producing estrogen. You may go into early menopause. If you want to have children in the future, discuss the risks of infertility with your healthcare provider.

    Some womens ovaries begin working again after chemotherapy treatment. Women who want to bear children in the future may also choose fertility preservation before starting chemotherapy.

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    Screening For Breast Cancer

    Women aged between 50 and 74 are invited to access free screening mammograms every two years via the BreastScreen Australia Program.

    Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible to receive free mammograms, however they do not receive an invitation to attend.

    It is recommended that women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, aged between 40 and 49 or over 75 discuss options with their GP, or contact BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50.

    A Medical Oncologist Explains The Benefits And Risks Of Chemotherapy

    If you’re like many cancer patients, you immediately envision an unpleasant experience at the thought of chemotherapy: weeks of intense nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and transient hair loss.

    These preconceived ideas about chemotherapy arent entirely accurate. Many cancer patients do experience some side effects of chemotherapyboth short-term and long-termbut others experience very few. Cancer treatment is improving and changing rapidly. We have many more chemotherapy drug options to choose from than ever before. These drugs may be used in combination with one another or with other innovative treatments, so they may be just one piece of your cancer care.

    Chemotherapy drugs dont all come with the risk of the same side effects. More medications and supportive therapies are available to help patients prevent and manage potential side effects. Many patients are surprised to find that not everyone experiences hair loss, and some patients actually feel better after starting chemotherapy when it causes the disease to regress.

    Can you refuse chemotherapy? Yes. Your doctor presents what he or she feels are the most appropriate treatment options for your specific cancer type and stage while also considering your overall health, but you have the right to make final decisions regarding your care.

    To help you make an informed decision about the benefits and risks of chemotherapy, this article addresses:

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    Dont Plan Your Chemo Response Until Youve Gone Through Your First Infusion

    My reaction to a cancer diagnosis was to dive into what my husband calls âbiblio-therapy.â As a journalist, I researched it to death. As I drove to my first infusion, I felt armed with information to vanquish chemo. Iâd planned out everything.

    I was sure Iâd get sick immediately. Instead, I went home from chemo and had dinner with friends. The second day, I felt tired. The third day, I felt completely sick and immobilized. That lasted for 3 or 4 days. Then, gradually, I got better. When I felt almost normal again, it was time for the next infusion.

    I expected to throw up all the time but hardly did. I didnât expect chemo brain, but my thinking got so fuzzy, I could barely read a book. I imagined that I would end up in the hospital at some point during treatment, but I didnât.

    Everyoneâs pattern is a little different. Wait to see what yours is before you make a lot of plans.

    The Katie Couric Curve

    Why Chemo Sucks So Bad  Confessions From The Cancer House

    Survival is way up in colon cancer because it is caught earlier due to routine colonoscopy , says Vijay Trisal, MD, an assistant professor of oncological surgery at the City of Hope National Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. After her husband died of colon cancer, NBC newswoman Katie Couric had a colonoscopy live on national television. In the following weeks and months, the numbers of people across the country having colonoscopies increased more than 20%, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and the University of Iowa.

    “We are picking up earlier cancers and that’s making a difference, and part of the difference is also very good chemotherapy for colon cancer,” he says. For example, it used to be that if colon cancer had spread to the liver, “survival was nine to 11 months, but now we can resect the liver and chemotherapy kills the microscopic disease, so we seeing survival in the range of 50%,” he tells WebMD.

    Overall, “advances in cancer have been in treating the microscopic disease,” he says. “Chemotherapy for breast cancer and colon cancer has significantly improved because we can kill the small disease that is not visible and regrows either in the vicinity of the cancer or spreads throughout the body.” Chemotherapy can knock out errant cancer cells along with the main tumor.

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    Prescription Medications For Pain

    Panadeine Forte is a stronger codeine-containing analgesic, but you will need a prescription from your oncologist or GP to purchase it.

    Opiate painkillers are prescription drugs that provide the backbone of managing moderate or more severe pain. There are quite a number of different versions of opiate painkillers, and new ones are introduced from time to time. The usual approach is the use of a slow-release form these are either oral medications or patches that are placed on the skin and renewed every few days. Examples are:

        • Oxycontin, Targin and Endone
        • MSContin or Kapanol
        • Jurnista and Dilaudid
        • Durogesic patches.

    You may also be able to use fast acting pain medication for what is called breakthrough pain pain that occurs despite the slow-release pain medication. Examples of these fast acting medications are:

        • Endone, Dilaudid
        • morphine mixture
        • Actiq, Abstral .

    The steroid medication dexamethasone can sometimes be very helpful for pain associated with metastases, such as bone or liver metastases.

    Moving Genomic Testing Into Practice

    This study is a big deal, said Dr. Timothy Byun, a medical oncologist with The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment at St. Joseph Hospital in Southern California, who was not involved in the study.

    In an interview with Healthline, Byun said the study may result in fewer breast cancer patients getting chemotherapy, at least in European countries.

    In the United States, many of us have already been using the Oncotype DX test to help guide our decisions, said Byun. It uses a 21-gene score. It gives similar information, but we dont know if theres a 100 percent correlation with the MammaPrint test.

    Byun referred to the recent TAILORx Trial using the 21-gene test. It found that low-risk patients did well without chemotherapy.

    That study showed the test could select a cohort of patients with a 99 percent chance of five-year survival without distant metastasis. For those women, the risks of chemotherapy arent justifiable.

    Researchers are still waiting for this data to mature, cautions Byun.

    We know that when oncologists see patients after surgery, we look at traditional clinical indicators to guide our decision-making process as to benefits and harms of chemotherapy, he said.

    With the information currently available, its likely that some breast cancer patients get unnecessary chemotherapy.

    Theres a caveat, according to Byun. Genomic studies, for the most part, have included only estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer patients.

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    What Is The Recovery Time After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

    When you finish chemotherapy, you may have remaining side effects of treatment. These symptoms may take months or weeks to go away. You may still experience:

    • Hair changes, such as hair growing back a different color or texture.
    • Nausea or vomiting for two to three weeks.
    • Tiredness or fatigue for three to six months.
    • Stress or chemo brain for six months to a year.

    What Are The Chances Of Breast Cancer Recurrence After Treatment For Stage 2 Breast Cancer


    In women who have breast-conserving treatment, the chance of recurrence is about 3-15% in 10 years, depending on tumor characteristics and margins. Distant recurrence in those who had mastectomy is most influenced by axillary lymph node involvement. When axillary lymph nodes are not cancerous, the recurrence rate is 6% in 5 years. When axillary lymph nodes are cancerous, the recurrence rate is 23% in 5 years with mastectomy but no radiation.

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    Longer Term Side Effects


    Tiredness is commonly reported during treatment. This may be a direct effect of the drugs or may be due to other factors such as disrupted sleep patterns.

    • Try to get adequate rest but also try to exercise regularly. Go for a walk outside each day as this can actually give you more energy.
    • Find something that you actually enjoy doing and also try to incorporate exercise into your usual day, e.g. walk upstairs rather than taking the lift, park further away from where you want to go and walk the extra distance. Build this up gradually.
    • Your GP, practice nurse or a physiotherapist can work with you to devise a specific exercise plan for you.
    • Let others help when your energy levels are low.

    If your fatigue doesn’t allow you to exercise, discuss this with your GP.

    Usually energy levels recover after treatment finishes but this commonly takes time. In some cases full recovery may take 12 months or more.

    Cognitive changes

    Some people notice they are having concentration and short-term memory problems following their chemotherapy. This is often referred to as chemo brain. The severity and duration of symptoms differ from person to person. For some people the symptoms are very mild and resolve soon after treatment stops, but others may find their daily life is noticeably affected for a much longer period, restricting their ability to return to work in their pre-treatment capacity.


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