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.
How Big Is A Stage 1b Breast Tumor
The tumor is less than 20 mm in size and there is no spread to lymph nodes. Stage 1B: T1N1miM0. The tumor is less than 20 mm in size and there are micrometastases in a nearby lymph node. Stage 1B: T0N1miM 0. There is no evidence of a primary tumor in the breast but there are micrometastases in a lymph node .
Increased Risk Of Leukemia
Very rarely, certain chemo drugs, such as doxorubicin , can cause diseases of the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndromes or even acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells. If this happens, it is usually within 10 years after treatment. For most women, the benefits of chemo in helping prevent breast cancer from coming back or in extending life are far likely to exceed the risk of this rare but serious complication.
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What If I Have Side Effects
You will see your doctor regularly while you are having treatment. Before each dose of chemotherapy you will have a blood test and a consultation with your medical oncologist to review your treatment. You will be able to discuss any side effects you have experienced and to ask questions. If necessary, the treatment can be adjusted for the next cycle.
What To Expect Before During And After Chemotherapy Treatment
You may receive chemotherapy during a hospital stay, at home or as an outpatient at your doctors office, clinic or hospital. Outpatient means you do not stay overnight. Treatment schedules for chemotherapy vary widely.
How often and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:
- Your type of cancer and how advanced it is.
- Whether chemotherapy is used to cure your cancer, control its growth or ease symptoms.
- The type of chemotherapy you are getting.
- How your body responds to the chemotherapy.
You may receive chemotherapy in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment followed by a period of rest. For instance, you might receive chemotherapy every day for 1 week followed by 3 weeks with no chemotherapy. These 4 weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives your body a chance to recover and build new healthy cells.
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Which Types Of Breast Cancers Do Well With Less Chemotherapy
Research in the last two decades has shown that two types of breast cancer respond well to less-intensive chemotherapyor none at allin some cases:
- HR-positive: This is the largest breast cancer subtype, accounting for as many as 75% of all cases. The majority of women diagnosed with this subtype of breast cancer have no lymph node cancer at the time of diagnosis. Both for these women and many with positive lymph nodes, hormonal therapy is the most important treatment, and chemotherapy may not be needed, Dr. Winer says.
- HER2-positive. This aggressive breast cancer makes up 15 to 20% of breast cancer cases. Once a deadly disease, even in its early stages, it is now curable in more than 90% of cases, Dr. Winer explains. In early HER2-positive cancers, weve found that very limited courses of chemotherapy can be just as effective as treatment that is more extreme, he says.
Tracking Your Side Effects Is Helpful
If you have side effects from chemotherapy that are bothersomesuch as nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, rash, swelling, or unusual pain around the injection siteyour healthcare team should be aware of them as soon as possible.
They will want to know how often you’re having problems, how severe they are, and how you’re coping with them.
It can be helpful to write down any symptoms you experience right after a treatment. Have a dedicated note in your smartphone or a notebook you can keep on hand for this purpose.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chemo Brain
Chemo brain impairs your ability to think. Some of the most common symptoms are:
Symptoms of chemo brain are often mild, so mild that family and friends dont realize theres a problem. Patients should monitor their condition while receiving cancer treatment. Any symptoms should be reported to your doctor, so you can work together to find a way to cope.
Practical Hints Regarding Neuropathy
- Tight shoes and socks can worsen pain and tingling, and may lead to sores that won’t heal. Wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes.
- If you have burning pain, cool your feet or hands in cold, but not icy, water for 15 minutes twice a day.
- Massage your hands and feet, or have someone massage them for you, to improve circulation, stimulate nerves and temporarily relieve pain.
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Why Is Chemotherapy Used For Breast Cancer
Not everyone who has breast cancer needs chemotherapy. Depending on the cancer stage, your oncologist may recommend chemotherapy:
- Before surgery : You may have chemotherapy to shrink a tumor. This option could make it possible to have a less-extensive surgery. It may also allow healthcare providers to discover more about the biology of the cancer itself by how it responds to chemotherapy.
- After surgery : Sometimes, cancerous cells remain in your body but dont show up on imaging tests. Your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. This treatment can also reduce the risk of the cancer from returning .
- For advanced cancer: If breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body , chemotherapy may be the main treatment.
- For IBC: Inflammatory breast cancer doesnt have a lump that a surgeon can remove easily. Chemotherapy often is the first treatment for IBC.
Skin And Nail Changes
Some drugs can affect your skin. It may become dry or slightly discoloured. Your skin may also be more sensitive to sunlight during and after treatment. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse if you develop any skin changes or rashes.
Chemotherapy can affect your nails. They may grow more slowly or break more easily. You might notice ridges or white or dark lines across your nails. Sometimes nails can become loose or fall out. When treatment finishes, any changes usually disappear as the nails grow out.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice changes to your nails. They can give you advice or arrange for you to see a podiatrist for foot care advice if needed.
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How Does Chemotherapy Work
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment it treats the whole body, reducing the chance of the cancer coming back in the breast or elsewhere in the body.
Chemotherapy works by attacking fast-growing cells in your body, Cancer cells usually grow and divide faster than normal cells and are unable to repair themselves when damaged, making chemotherapy effective. There are several types of chemotherapy drugs used to treat early breast cancer.
Most chemotherapy drugs are given by intravenous drip through a cannula into a vein in the arm or hand. Some chemotherapy drugs are given in tablet form. Sometimes a Port or PICC may be used which means you dont need to have a cannula inserted each time. Ports and PICCs are venous access devices used to enhance access to veins for people having chemotherapy regularly.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer
What are the most common side effects, for instance? How long will they last? And, is there any way to prevent or reduce them?
What side effects does radiation therapy typically cause in breast cancer patients?
There are two flavors of side effects from radiation therapy, regardless of what type of cancer is being treated: early and late. The early side effects appear toward the end of treatment or within a few weeks of finishing it, while the late ones can appear anywhere from six months to a year after youve completed treatment.
The most common early side effects of radiation therapy in breast cancer patients are skin irritation and fatigue. Radiation therapy can last anywhere from one to six weeks. As you get farther into treatment, the skin on the breast or chest thats repeatedly exposed to radiation can start to look dry or red and feel irritated. It may sometimes even peel.
When fatigue occurs, it usually appears toward the end of treatment. But many patients report that its mild or not as bad as the kind they experienced with chemotherapy.
What are the most common late radiation therapy side effects in breast cancer patients?
How are these radiation therapy side effects treated?
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Can Receiving Less Chemotherapy Result Ultimately In Better Outcomes
Chemotherapy can shrink cancer and slow its growth, which is why it has been used to treat breast cancer in conjunction with surgery for so many years. But the side effects can be difficult.
In the short term, these side effects can include such problems as nausea, fatigue, and hair loss, which can sometimes last far beyond treatment. We know that, after a course of chemotherapy, a number of women, up to several years out, don’t regain their full vitality, Dr. Winer says.
But even more concerning are the long-term effects, which can include rare, but difficult, complications such as heart problems, neuropathy, and leukemia, which can ultimatelyand indirectlyaffect outcomes.
These potentially debilitating side effects are why personalizing chemotherapy treatment has become so important. If a patient can do just as well with fewer medical treatments, it’s almost always a better thing, says Dr. Winer. Less chemotherapy can mean fewer side effects, less anxiety, improved quality of life, and possibly even a longer life, he adds.
Also, when side effects are truly debilitating, treatment delivery may be impaired, Dr. Lustberg says. If we can enhance how patients are feeling during treatment, they may actually tolerate treatment better, stay on it longer, not need dose reductions or modifications, and have better disease outcomes. It’s all interrelated.
How To Feel Better During Breast Cancer Treatment
Cancer medicines are strong. Although their side effects can be intense, you’ve got ways to ease them.
The key is to let your doctor know what problems you have so they can recommend changes to help you.
In some cases, they may be able to change your prescriptions or adjust the dose. For example, with chemotherapy, your doctor will try to find a dose that’s strong enough to work, but not so strong that you can’t tolerate it.
Here are some common side effects of chemotherapy and tips to help you manage them.
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Effects On Your Digestive System
Chemotherapy can affect your digestive system in different ways. Some people get constipated, other people have diarrhoea. Your hospital will have its own guidelines, but if you have four or more episodes of diarrhoea within 24 hours contact you GP or treatment team. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Some chemotherapy drugs can make indigestion more likely. Some may also cause heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the lower chest.
Let your chemotherapy team know if you have any of these side effects. They can prescribe medication to help and can give you information about diet. You can also be referred to a dietitian if necessary.
Preventing And Treating Infection
Developing an infection when you have a low number of white blood cells can sometimes be a serious complication of chemotherapy. But most people do not have any serious problems with infection.
Some chemotherapy treatments are more likely than others to reduce the number of white blood cells. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and other medicines to take during chemotherapy, to prevent an infection. These are called prophylactic drugs.
Even a mild infection can delay your chemotherapy treatment. Your doctor may wait until the infection has gone and for your blood cell levels to go back up before you have more chemotherapy.
Your chemotherapy nurse will talk to you about infection and show you how to check your temperature.
You can have an infection without having a high temperature. Drugs such as paracetamol lower your temperature, so they can hide or mask an infection.
Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have been given if:
- your temperature goes over 37.5°C
- you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
- you have symptoms of an infection
- your temperature goes below 36°C .
Symptoms of an infection include:
- feeling shivery and shaking
- needing to pass urine a lot or discomfort when you pass urine.
Chemotherapy units usually have a policy they follow when someone with low white blood cells has an infection. This is to make sure you get treatment with antibiotics straight away.
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What To Expect On Your First Day Of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy. It’s not a word people want to hear and certainly not something they want to go through. But, for those of us with cancer, we often don’t have a choice. I remember how terrified I was of getting my first chemotherapy treatment. Would I be sick? Would I have a reaction to the medication? Would I be in a room by myself or with other chemo patients?I really didn’t know what to expect the first day. However, almost 4 years later, I feel like a pro.
Sex Life And Fertility
Having chemotherapy can sometimes affect your sex life. Side effects like tiredness or feeling sick or weak can reduce your sex drive and make having sex difficult. Feeling low in mood or anxious can also affect your sex life.
Some people continue to enjoy sex and want to keep their sex life as normal as possible. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to make changes to your sex life because of a treatment. For example, if you have had high-dose chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant your doctor may advise you not to have close physical contact with anyone for a while. This is to protect you from infection.Chemotherapy should not have a long-term effect on your sex life. The side effects usually slowly improve after your treatment finishes.
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What Tests Are Used To Determine If A Patient Can Benefit From Chemo
Genomic profiling tests can help determine if a cancer is likely to return and whether or not some patients with small, early cancers will or will not benefit from chemotherapy.
There are many of these tests, and the two most common ones are Oncotype DX and MammaPrint, Dr. Lustberg says, adding that both are FDA-approved. The tests analyze a sample of a cancer tumortaken from a biopsy or a surgical specimenlooking for the activity of certain genes that can affect the likelihood that a patients cancer will grow or spread.
The following patients may be eligible for the Oncotype DX test:
- Youve recently been diagnosed with Stage I, Stage II, or Stage IIIa invasive breast cancer
- The cancer is estrogen-receptor-positive
Possible Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Your cancer doctor and nurse will explain the side effects that your chemotherapy is likely to cause. The main areas of your body that may be affected by chemotherapy are areas where new cells are quickly made and replaced. This includes:
- bone marrow where blood cells are made
- hair follicles where hair grows
- the digestive system
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If The Cancer Comes Back
If cancer does return, your treatment options will depend on where it comes back, what treatments you’ve had before, and your current health and preferences. For more information, see Treatment of Recurrent Breast Cancer.
Its important to know that women who have had breast cancer can also still get other types of cancer, so its important to follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.
Women who have had breast cancer are actually at higher risk for certain other cancers. To learn more about the risks of second cancers, see Second Cancers After Breast Cancer.
Breast Cancer Survivors: Life After The Treatments End
The breast cancer treatments are over. Now what? Here’s how to return to your “new normal.”
Life after breast cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.
The song says “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” but when you’ve had breast cancer, you discover that it’s not even over when it’s over.
After a marathon of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment that may last six months to a year, you can hardly wait to get back to a normal life again. But the day of your last radiation treatment or chemotherapy infusion doesn’t mark the end of your journey with breast cancer.
Instead, you’re about to embark on another leg of the trip. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it will be a lot like the life you had before, but in other ways, it will be very different. Call it your “new normal.”
From your relationships with your family and your spouse to eating habits and exercise, breastcancer will change your life in ways that last well after treatment ends. How do you fight lingering fatigue? What should you eat to help prevent a breastcancer recurrence? Will you ever have a regular sex life again? These are just a few of the questions that may nag at you as you make the transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival.
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