What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Chemotherapy Drugs
The specific side effects you may experience will depend on the type and amount of medications you are given and how long you are taking them. The most common temporary side effects include:
- Higher risk of infection
- Bruising or bleeding
- Premature menopause and infertility are potential permanent complications of chemotherapy.
- Heart damage can be a permanent complication of some chemotherapy.
Please contact your health care provider about specific side effects you can expect to experience from your specific chemotherapy medications. Also discuss troubling or unmanageable side effects with your provider.
Chemotherapy After Or Before Surgery
It’s fairly common for chemotherapy to be given after surgery, as soon as you recover. The time between surgery and chemotherapy depends on each person’s unique situation, so don’t worry if you start sooner or later than someone else. Doctors call this “adjuvant” chemotherapy because it’s given in addition to surgery, which is considered the primary treatment.
In some cases, chemotherapy is given before surgery to shrink the cancer so less tissue has to be removed. When chemotherapy is given before surgery, it’s called “neoadjuvant” chemotherapy. Only certain types of cancers respond well to chemotherapy before surgery.
How Does Chemotherapy Treat Cancer
Doctors use chemotherapy in different ways at different times. These include:
Before surgery or radiation therapy to shrink tumors. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
After surgery or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.
As the only treatment. For example, to treat cancers of the blood or lymphatic system, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
For cancer that comes back after treatment, called recurrent cancer.
For cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, called metastatic cancer.
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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment
Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon and aggressive type of breast cancer caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin.
All IBC cases are classified as at least stage 3 breast cancer. If the cancer is metastatic , its considered stage 4.
Treatments for IBC depend on what stage the cancer is in.
Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy damages cells as they divide. This makes the drugs effective against cancer cells, which divide rapidly. However, some normal cells such as hair follicles, blood cells and cells inside the mouth or bowel also divide rapidly. Side effects happen when chemotherapy damages these normal cells. Unlike cancer cells, normal cells can recover, so most side effects are temporary.
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Questions To Ask Your Health Care Team
Consider asking the following questions:
Is maintenance therapy an option for me?
What type of maintenance therapy do you recommend?
What are the potential benefits and risks of this treatment?
How often would I get it? For how long?
Will my insurance pay for it?
When is watchful waiting a better option?
What clinical trials are available for me, and how do I find out more about them?
After Each Chemo Treatment
If necessary, your blood will be drawn after chemo. If your red counts or neutrophils are low, you may be offered shots to boost those counts. Chemotherapy can greatly affect your blood counts because blood cells divide and multiply quickly and are therefore targeted by the drugs.Staying on top of your blood counts is essential for recovering from chemo with a healthy immune system and avoiding anemia and neutropenia.
Breast Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
- Nerve damage
- “Chemo brain”
Your specific chemotherapy drug or regimen may cause other side effects, as well. These effects will subside after you’ve finished treatment.
Before each treatment, your medical oncologist may want you to take medications to protect against side effects. Be sure to take these on time and as prescribed.
Between chemotherapy appointments, if you have trouble dealing with side effects, don’t hesitate to call your clinic and ask for help. If you’re dehydrated after a treatment, you can ask for an infusion of saline fluid. Other medications may be given along with the saline to help with nausea and vomiting.
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Time To Chemotherapy After Surgery
After surgery for early-stage breast cancer, many women also have adjuvant chemotherapy .
The period of time between surgery and chemotherapy depends somewhat on how well someone does with surgery since the surgical site needs to be relatively well-healed before chemotherapy begins. But once the incision are healed, what is the optimal time to begin this treatment?
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That’s interesting because I just started being able to really exercise without having difficulty breathing and suddenly my feet are starting to;feel better.; I wonder if it’s better circulation.; I also eat a banana every day now and that stopped the cramping I was having.; I can’t eat any other fruit without having bathroom issues but I can eat bananas.
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Delay In Surgery And Tumor Growth: Her2 And Triple Negative Tumors
The optimal time between diagnosis and surgery can also be looked at from the standpoint of tumor growth, although the doubling rate varies between different tumors.
A 2016 study, though it didn’t look at survival, did evaluate the growth rate of breast cancers during wait time for surgery by ultrasound measurements. In this study, the average wait time between diagnosis and surgery was 31 days .
The average diameter and volume of tumors at diagnosis was 14.7 millimeters and 1.3 centimeters vs. 15.6 millimeters and 1.6 centimeters.
The growth rate of different tumors based on receptor status, however, was very different:
- Triple-negative tumors: 1.003 percent growth each day
- HER2 positive tumors: 0.850 percent growth each day
- Luminal B/A tumors : 0.208/0.175 percent growth each day
As noted, tumors that were triple negative or HER2 positive grew much faster. This was also linked to an increase in stage based on size between diagnosis and surgery, with 18 percent of triple-negative tumors increasing versus only 2 to 3 percent of estrogen receptor positive tumors changing. Since stage is linked with survival rates, this study also supports earlier surgery, especially for people with triple negative or HER2 positive tumors.
How Does Ac + T Work
The A part of this chemo cocktail blocks DNA production in your cells, and inhibits the enzymes responsible for repairing DNA. Cells cant live without DNA and die off when theyre deprived of it. In fact, some even kill themselves when their DNA is damaged. While A doesnt distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells, it has a greater negative effect on cancer cells since those cells are dividing so rapidly.
The C part of this chemo combo stops cancer cells from replicating. As for T, it slows or stops cell division, or keeps enzymes from making the proteins cells need in order to grow. So between all three of these drugs, you have some pretty powerful agents working to destroy those cancer cells.
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The Types Of Radiotherapy
The type of radiotherapy you have will depend on the type of breast cancer and the type of surgery you have. Some women may not need to have radiotherapy at all.
Types of radiotherapy include:
- breast radiotherapy;;after breast-conserving surgery, radiation is applied to the whole of the remaining breast tissue
- chest-wall radiotherapy;;after a mastectomy, radiotherapy is applied to the chest wall
- breast boost;;some women may be offered a boost of high-dose radiotherapy in the area where the cancer was removed; however, this may affect the appearance of your breast, particularly if you have large breasts, and can sometimes have other side effects, including hardening of breast tissue
- radiotherapy to the lymph nodes ;where radiotherapy is aimed at the armpit and the surrounding area to kill any cancer that may be in the lymph nodes
What To Expect After Chemo
Once youâre home, you need to take care of yourself and take steps to manage chemo side effects. These include:
- Take medications the doctor prescribed for side effects.
- Stay away from anyone with a cold or infection — chemo makes it harder for your body to fight germs.
- Drink lots of fluids for the first 8 hours to move the medicine through your body.
- Manage bodily fluids and waste that may have traces of chemo. Usually, this means flushing the toilet twice.
Youâll see your doctor every 4 to 6 months for the next 5 years after treatment ends.
Chemo Brain And Stress
Many people experience mental changes after chemotherapy treatment. This is sometimes called chemo brain. You may have problems such as poor memory, trouble finding words, difficulty focusing. This can affect parts of your life, including caring for your family and managing your job.
Some things that help with chemo brain include keeping a calendar, writing everything down, and exercising your brain with puzzles and reading. Try to focus on 1 task at a time instead of more than 1 task. You can also work with an occupational therapist for cognitive behavioral rehabilitation. This is a treatment to help you if you have cognitive issues. Occupational therapists work in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Occupational and Physical Therapy. For more information about cognitive behavioral rehabilitation, talk with your healthcare provider for a referral.
Try to avoid having goals for yourself that are too high. This can add to your stress level and frustration. Most people say it takes 6 to 12 months after they finish chemotherapy before they truly feel like themselves again. Read the resource Managing Cognitive Changes: Information for Cancer Survivors for more information about managing chemo brain.
Cancer Is The Disease Of
Cancer is the disease of abnormal cells uncontrollably divide and destroy body tissue. One major treatment used to help kill the cancer cells in the body in chemotherapy, and people with cancers such as breast cancer usually have to go through a few rounds of radiation. The way doctors know how to schedule one for chemotherapy is based upon the cells and the rate that cell division occurs. Anti-neoplastic drugs are divided into classes on how the medication will kill the cancer. Since chemotherapy does not know the difference between cancerous cells and normal cells, the normal cells will grow back but there are many side effects in between that time.
According to the American Cancer Society, some people may have long term side effects while others will not. Some long term side effects include heart and/or nerve damage and fertility complications. A common effect to chemotherapy is anemia, which occurs when the body is not producing enough red blood cells, and causes the patient to feel fatigued. There are many other symptoms of anemia such as feeling cold, pale skin, being light headed, and even having difficulty thinking.; Blood count monitoring is very critical when going through chemotherapy because the patients red blood count could be low or the white blood count could be low.
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How Long Does Chemotherapy Take
Chemotherapy is often given for a specific time, such as 6 months or a year. Or you might receive chemotherapy for as long as it works.
Side effects from many drugs are too severe to give treatment every day. Doctors usually give these drugs with breaks, so you have time to rest and recover before the next treatment. This lets your healthy cells heal.
For example, you might get a dose of chemotherapy on the first day and then have 3 weeks of recovery time before repeating the treatment. Each 3-week period is called a treatment cycle. Several cycles make up a course of chemotherapy. A course usually lasts 3 months or more.
Some cancers are treated with less recovery time between cycles. This is called a dose-dense schedule. It can make chemotherapy more effective against some cancers. But it also increases the risk of side effects. Talk with your health care team about the best schedule for you.
Combination Drug Therapy For Early
Combination drug therapy means that you receive more than one type of drug at a time.
Combining drug therapies allows your care team to increase the chances that your treatment will be effective against the breast cancer. If a tumor becomes resistant to one drug, your treatment may still be effective because the tumor responds to the second or third drug in the combination you receive.
Combination therapy can be given before or after breast surgery. Most women receive a combination of two or three drugs at the same time. Some of these drugs are breast cancer targeted therapies. These drugs work by targeting specific molecules involved in breast cancer development.
Here are some of the drug combinations that MSKs medical oncologists commonly prescribe:
- Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, followed by paclitaxel
- Used to treat early-stage breast cancer, particularly in younger women or women with aggressive disease
- Given intravenously before or after surgery
- Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, followed by paclitaxel and trastuzumab
- Used to treat early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer
- Given intravenously before or after surgery
- Doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide, followed by paclitaxel, trastuzumab, and pertuzumab
- Used to treat early-stage breast cancer
- Given intravenously before or after surgery
- Used to treat early-stage breast cancer
- Given intravenously or by pill after surgery, depending on what your doctor recommends
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Patients Refusal Of Surgery Strongly Impairs Breast Cancer Survival
This was a Swiss study by;Verkooijen et al, published in 2005 in the Annals of Surgery that looked at 5339 patients under the age of 80 with non-metastatic breast cancer. It didnt examine CAM, just the decision to refuse breast cancer surgery. It compared patients who refused breast cancer with those that those that accepted surgery. Only 1.3% of women refused surgery. Of that group, 37 had no treatment, 25 had hormone-therapy only, and 8 had other types of treatments. So only a small percentage refused all treatment. In this study, the five-year survival of women that refused surgery was 72% versus 87% of women who had surgery. Adjusting for prognostic factors, the authors estimated that women that refused surgery had a 2.1-fold increased risk of death from breast cancer compared to conventional treatment. The survival curves make this clear:
The bottom line in this paper was that a decision to forgo surgery for breast cancer is associated with dramatically worse outcomes and survival.
What Types Of Hormone Therapy Are Used For Breast Cancer
Several strategies are used to treat hormone-sensitive breast cancer:
Blocking ovarian function: Because the ovaries are the main source of estrogen in premenopausal women, estrogen levels in these women can be reduced by eliminating or suppressing ovarian function. Blocking ovarian function is called ovarian ablation.
Ovarian ablation can be done surgically in an operation to remove the ovaries or by treatment with radiation. This type of ovarian ablation is usually permanent.
Alternatively, ovarian function can be suppressed temporarily by treatment with drugs called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, which are also known as luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists. By mimicking GnRH, these medicines interfere with signals that stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen.
Estrogen and progesterone production in premenopausal women. Drawing shows that in premenopausal women, estrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries is regulated by luteinizing hormone and luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone . The hypothalamus releases LHRH, which then causes the pituitary gland to make and secrete LH;and follicle-stimulating hormone . LH and FSH cause the ovaries to make estrogen and progesterone, which act on the endometrium .
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How Long Does It Take To Recover From Chemo And Radiation
Thank you very much for sharing your story. ;You are right in that some of us are just starting this long road and are afraid.
I had surgery 3 weeks ago for colon cancer and start chemo next week. ;I have no idea what to expect and having your story helps so much. ;Thank you.
When I was diagnosed with stage 4, I took it like a man. ;I then found myself breaking down at odd times and tearing up. ;I worry about my wife and daughter so much if I do not make it through. ; I am reading for the first time the stories here and the support that each of you give each other, and it helps so much. ;Again, thank you.
How Long Does It Take To Treat Breast Cancer
There are many factors to consider when determining how long breast cancer takes to treat. Even your doctor will only be able to give estimates based on how far your cancer has spread through the breast tissue and where it has metastasized if it has metastasized at all.
Their estimates are based on decades of experience and medical research. However, you should still ask your doctor to give you two estimates, one that imagines everything going to plan and one that factors in common complications. Taking all factors into consideration, the Mayo Clinic suggests that the average treatment length for breast cancer can be divided into two categories: early-stage breast cancer and advanced breast cancer. When trying to figure out how long breast cancer takes to treat, its important to start here.
If youre lucky and catch your condition early on, then your breast cancer treatment will generally last between three and six months. This assumes there is no further growth while you are undergoing treatment. In more advanced cases, you should typically expect a minimum of six months of treatment. How far it goes beyond that depends on how many surgeries you need and how far the cancer has spread.
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