What Are Possible Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
There are usually no immediate side effects from each radiation treatment given to the breast. Patients do not develop nausea or hair loss on the head from radiation therapy to the breast.
Most patients develop mild fatigue that builds up gradually over the course of therapy. This slowly goes away one to two months following the radiation therapy. Most patients develop dull aches or sharp shooting pains in the breast that may last for a few seconds or minutes. It is rare for patients to need any medication for this. The most common side effect needing attention is skin reaction. Most patients develop reddening, dryness anditching of the skin after a few weeks. Some patients develop substantial irritation.
Skin care recommendations include:
- Keeping the skin clean using gentle soap and warm but not hot water
- Avoiding extreme temperatures while bathing
- Avoiding trauma to the skin and sun exposure
- Avoiding shaving the treatment area with a razor blade
- Avoiding use of perfumes, cosmetics, after-shave or deodorants in the treatment area
- Using only recommended unscented creams or lotions after daily treatment
Myth #: Metastatic Breast Cancer Requires More Aggressive Treatment Than Earlier
Related to myth #3 is the notion that because MBC is advanced cancer, doctors have to pull out all the stops to fight it. But thats actually not the case, says Breastcancer.org professional advisory board member Sameer Gupta, M.D., a medical oncologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The goal is control rather than cure. Think of it as a marathon vs. a 50-yard dash.
Doctors treat earlier-stage breast cancer more aggressively because the goal is to cure it: destroy all of the cancer cells and leave none behind, reducing the risk of recurrence as much as possible. With MBC, the goal is control so that patients can live well for as long as possible. And chemotherapy isnt necessarily the mainstay of treatment.
DivineMrsM of Ohio shares her experience: eople in general think we should be hooked up to a chemo IV and looking sickly. When I told one woman I took a daily anti-estrogen pill to combat MBC, she looked at me with pity and sadness like I had no clue what I was talking about. Or that I was making up that I had advanced breast cancer, perhaps as a sympathy ploy or for attention. She even asked, Aren’t you on chemo? And I worked with this woman for a number of years, she was not a stranger!
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Will The Nhs Fund An Unlicensed Medicine
It’s possible for your doctor to prescribe a medicine outside the uses it’s licensed for if they’re willing to take personal responsibility for this ‘off-licence’ use of treatment.
Your local clinical commissioning group may need to be involved, as it would have to decide whether to support your doctor’s decision and pay for the medicine from NHS budgets.
Page last reviewed: 28 October 2019 Next review due: 28 October 2022
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
You may want to ask your provider:
- What type of breast cancer recurrence do I have?
- Has the cancer spread outside the breast?
- What stage is the breast cancer?
- What is the best treatment for this type of breast cancer?
- What are the treatment risks and side effects?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Most breast cancer recurrences respond well to treatments. You may be able to try new drugs or combination therapies in development in clinical trials. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best treatment option based on your unique situation.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/24/2021.
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How Are Clinical Trials Helping To Improve Treatments
Scientists continue to conduct clinical trials to develop and test treatments for breast cancer.
These trials may help them develop new treatment options and learn which types of people are most likely to benefit from available treatments. Over time, this might lead to more effective and personalized treatment plans.
One 2018 trial found that chemotherapy doesnt benefit most women with early stage breast cancer that is hormone-positive and HER2-negative. These women may benefit from surgery and hormone therapy instead.
Researchers in many other trials are also trying to determine whether certain combinations of therapies work better in certain types of breast cancer, report the authors of a 2019 review .
Scientists are also studying ways to improve breast cancer screening and diagnosis to detect breast cancer in the earliest stage possible.
For example, the tomosynthesis mammographic imaging screening trial is evaluating the potential benefits of 3-D mammography.
This is a new technology that produces images from different angles around the breast to build a multidimensional picture.
There is no natural cure for breast cancer. Medical treatments are necessary to remove, shrink, or slow the growth of tumors.
That said, you may use certain complementary therapies and lifestyle changes alongside standard medical treatments to help:
- control symptoms of breast cancer
- ease side effects of treatment
- improve quality of life
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A Change Of Diet Cured My Cancer
It’s a miserable business, having cancer. I can remember those years clearly, and they were dreadful.
I had no family history of cancer, but I knew what it was when I found the lump in my breast in 1987. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t real, but when I was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t that surprised. It was a real strain on my family.
I was 42 and my sons, Mark and Tom, were 16 and six then, but it was hardest for my daughter, Emma, who was 13 – all her teenage years were blighted by my cancer.
And then one day, it all made sense – and what I discovered that day was to change my life for ever. It was six years after I was first diagnosed, and my family and I had been to hell and back. I’d had so many gruelling operations – a mastectomy, 12 sessions of chemotherapy and 35 radiotherapy treatments, and despite everything, I was still left with a lump the size of half a boiled egg sticking out of my neck.
It was a secondary cancer, since the disease had reached my lymph system, and I was absolutely fed up. I’d just had a session of chemotherapy which had had no effect on this latest large lump – I was measuring it with callipers, so I knew.
It’s hard to explain to a non-scientist the mental and emotional buzz you get when you know that you have just had an important insight. It’s as if you have had a lot of jigsaw pieces in your mind and suddenly the whole picture becomes clear.
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Breast Cancer
A change seen on your mammogram may be the first sign of breast cancer. Or you may have found a lump or other change in your breast.
The doctor will ask you questions about your health and will do a physical exam. A breast exam is done to look for changes in the nipples or the skin of your breasts. The doctor will also check the lymph nodes under your arm and above your collarbone. Swollen or hard lymph nodes might mean breast cancer has spread there.
If signs are pointing to breast cancer, more tests will be done. Here are some of the tests you may need:
Mammogram: This is an x-ray of the breast. Mammograms are mostly used to find breast cancer early. But another mammogram might be done to look more closely at the breast problem you might have.
MRI scan: MRIs use radio waves and strong magnets instead of x-rays to make detailed pictures. MRIs can be used to learn more about the size of the cancer and look for other tumors in the breast.
Breast ultrasound: For this test, a small wand is moved around on your skin. It gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off tissues. The echoes are made into a picture that you can see on a computer screen. Ultrasound can help the doctor see if a lump is a fluid-filled cyst , or if it’s a tumor that could be cancer.
Nipple discharge exam: If you have fluid coming from your nipple, some of it may be sent to a lab. There, it will be checked to see if there are cancer cells in it.
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Testing For Proteins And Genes
The breast cancer cells will be tested for certain proteins called estrogen and progesterone receptors. If the cancer has these proteins, it’s called a hormone receptor positive breast cancer. The cells are also tested to see if the cancer makes too much of the HER2 protein. If it does, it’s called a HER2-positive cancer. These cancers are sometimes easier to treat. If the cancer doesn’t test positive for any of these proteins, it’s called a triple-negative breast cancer.
The cells might also be tested for certain genes, which can help decide if chemo might be helpful and how likely it is that the cancer will come back. Ask your doctor to explain the tests they plan to do, and what the results might mean.
Herbal Products Used For Treatment Of Breast Cancer
A recent population-based survey showed that almost 80% of the women suffering from breast cancer use some form of complementary or alternative medicine for the treatment of cancer . Herbal remedies are the most common and popular form of alternative medicine among them, which is frequently used by women suffering from breast cancer. Here is some evidence that can help to treat breast cancer and its associated toxicity:
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Success Story: How I Healed Stage 4 Breast Cancer With Integrative Medicine
It is now almost three years since my initial diagnosis and the cancer is fading away I can no longer feel the lump in my breast or lymph nodes
Normally, the way we treat cancer in North America is with some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. My oncologist, and the nurses in the cancer unit where I go for my chemotherapy, never mentioned the importance of diet or other complementary modalities. Indeed, volunteers serve cookies and fruit juice to cancer patients while they are having their chemo IVs .
The following represents my personal understanding of how to recover from cancer. This can be done in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. I give no advice on these three modalities as I am not a medical doctor and believe we all need to do our own research and decide what is best for each of us.
I decided not to have radiation therapy, and in my case because of the metastasis it was also not the best option for me.
The lump in my breast was too large for a lumpectomy and I opted not to have a mastectomy even though that is what my surgeon recommended. I didnt want any complications, like lymphedema .
I reluctantly opted for chemotherapy as my cancer had metastasized and I believed I needed more aggressive treatment to kill the cancer cells in my body.
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1. REMOVE THE SOURCES OF CARCINOGENS:
Learning That Less Is More
Two generations ago, when a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a radical mastectomy a grueling procedure to remove the breast, the underlying chest muscle and the lymph nodes. This caused incredible disfigurement. A major step forward came in the 1960s when a randomized clinical trial showed that a simple mastectomy that left the chest muscle intact resulted in similar survival.
It was the beginning of realizing that sometimes less is more.
Its hard to pull back on treatment. It takes a certain type of patient and a certain type of bravery to be willing to forgo treatment in order to help determine if thats an option for future generations, says Anne Schott, M.D., professor of internal medicine and associate director of clinical research at the U-M Rogel Cancer Center.
Over time, studies have allowed surgeons to scale back treatment even more. Lumpectomy followed by radiation is just as effective as mastectomy. Many women do not need all their axillary lymph nodes removed, a procedure that can cause severe swelling and serious infections.
Weve come to understand that radical surgical treatment is not universally beneficial, says Jacqueline Jeruss, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Breast Care Center at the U-M Rogel Cancer Center.
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Myth #: The Mental And Emotional Experience Of People With Mbc Is The Same As That Of Earlier
People with MBC report hearing comments such as, At least you have a good type of cancer, Arent you glad so much research on breast cancer has been done?, Fortunately you have so many options. These might comfort people with early-stage breast cancer, who can look forward to one day finishing treatment and moving on but people with MBC dont have that luxury. They know they will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They also know that their life is likely to be shorter than theyd planned.
Mentally and emotionally, people with MBC have a completely different experience. For them, the whole ringing the bell idea does not work, says Dr. Gupta. I have patients who are coming in once a week and have to plan their lives around their treatment. The whole pink brigade idea is very upsetting to them.
Fortunately, more and more people with MBC are speaking up and calling attention to how their experience differs from that of people with earlier-stage breast cancer. People with MBC live with cancer always in the background of their lives, but with new and emerging therapies, many are living longer and maintaining their quality of life.
Clearly, the experience of metastatic breast cancer is quite different from early-stage breast cancer. But there are so many patients who understand just what youre going through. Read more about Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and join our discussion forum for people with stage IV/metastatic disease.
What About Other Treatments That I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
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Medicine With A Side Of Mysticism: Top Hospitals Promote Unproven Therapies
Absolute and exclusive belief in natural alternative medicine to cure cancer has devastating consequences. A study out this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at 281 patients with non-metastatic breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers who chose to be treated exclusively with an alternative approach, and compared their survival with patients who received conventional cancer treatment. Overall, those in the alternative medicine group were 2.5 times more likely to die. Those with lung cancer were nearly 2.2 times more likely to die, and those with colorectal cancer were 4.5 times more likely. Women with breast cancer fared the worst with a 5.7 times higher death rate among those who chose only alternative therapies. Several other studies have shown similar outcomes, especially for breast cancer.
People with cancer are easy targets for naturopathic scams because they can be desperate for hope and extensively research their treatment options. Natural treatments with few side effects appear irresistible when compared to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. But it is almost impossible for most people to know beforehand that these natural remedies wont do anything for their cancer. If the cancer returns, they are more likely to blame the cancer rather than the ineffective natural remedies they received.
Suneel D. Kamath, M.D., is a hematology/oncology fellow at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.