Why Are People Offered Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is given to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the future. It uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells.
It is most commonly given after surgery.
Some people wonder why they need chemotherapy if theyve already had surgery to remove their cancer. Whether someone is offered chemotherapy depends on a number of features of their cancer. These include the size and grade of the cancer whether it has spread to any of the lymph nodes under the arm and whether the cancer is hormone receptor and HER2 positive or negative.
For some people the benefit is clear, but for others its less certain. This is why cancer specialists may use a test, like the one described above, to help estimate the benefit.
Because it affects cells throughout the body, chemotherapy can cause side effects including sickness, hair loss and an increased risk of infection.
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 doesnt 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.
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.
How Often Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Come Back After Treatment
If stage 1 cancer is treated comprehensively, it rarely comes back. A new, unrelated breast cancer is more likely to emerge after stage 1 breast cancer is treated than a recurrence. Your healthcare provider will recommend a surveillance schedule for you so that new breast cancer or a recurrence can be identified and treated as quickly as possible.
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What Happens After Iv Chemotherapy Ends
After your treatment session ends, the nurse or another health care team member will take out your IV. If you have a port, it will stay in until you finish all of your treatments. The nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature again.
Your oncologist or nurse will talk with you about what to expect with side effects. They will give you medication, tell you how to manage common side effects, and offer information such as:
Avoid people with colds or other infections. Chemotherapy weakens your body’s immune system. Your immune system helps fight infections.
Drink lots of fluids for 48 hours after chemotherapy. This helps move the drugs through your body.
Whether there are activities to do or avoid doing on future treatment days.
Before you leave your first treatment, be sure to ask who you should call with any questions or concerns and how to contact them, including after hours or weekends.
The Overall Goal Is Your Personalized Care
The importance for breast cancer patients to consult with a multidisciplinary team prior to initiating treatment cant be overstated it can be a lot to take in, but youre not alone and theyre there to help, Dr. Moore says.
The goal is to individually tailor your therapy in order to avoid both undertreatment and over treatment of the cancer, she emphasizes. Rest assured your medical team will always walk you through what the best options are for you personally, .
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How Long Does It Take For Your Immune System To Recover From Chemo
Treatment might last between 3 and 6 months. During that period, you would be termed immunocompromised, meaning you would be unable to fight infection. It might take anywhere from 21 to 28 days for your immune system to recover after completing chemotherapy treatment. During this time, you should avoid contact with people who are not well.
You should also know that your immune system is weakened even after it has recovered from treatment. It is important to maintain your immunity by getting vaccinated, eating a healthy diet, and staying active.
Factors Your Physician Will Consider To Determine If Chemotherapy Is Recommended
If your physician has recommended that you have a total mastectomy, you may be wondering if your unique circumstances may require that you receive chemotherapy as well. Some of the factors that influence this decision include:
- The type of cancer Chemotherapy may not be recommended for certain forms of breast cancer, such as in situ cancers, that are unlikely to spread to other areas. For other types of cancers, such as triple negative breast cancers or HER2-positive breast cancers, chemotherapy may be recommended following the total mastectomy because these forms of cancer are typically more aggressive.
- The location of cancer cells If cancer is detected in the lymph nodes or has spread to areas outside of the breast tissue, chemotherapy will likely be recommended to remove any cancer cells that remain following the surgery.
- Previous chemotherapy treatments If a patient has previously received chemotherapy and subsequently developed cancer again, it may not be recommended because it was not effective the first time.
- The age of the patient Women who are premenopausal are more likely to have aggressive forms of breast cancer. This may also influence a physicians recommendation to include chemotherapy after a total mastectomy.
If you would like to learn more about the breast cancer treatment options that may be best for you, such as a total mastectomy and chemotherapy, call or fill out a new patient registration form online to schedule an appointment at Moffitt.
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How To Recognize A Cancer Emergency
Your doctor and the chemotherapy nurse will let you know what situations would be considered an emergency. But if you have any of the following warning signs, tell your doctor immediately:
- A temperature greater than 100.4 F.
- Any fever and chills. If you can’t reach your doctor, go to the emergency room.
Feeling Unwell Or Tired
Many women do not feel as healthy after chemo as they did before. There is often a residual feeling of body pain or achiness and a mild loss of physical functioning. These changes may be very subtle and happen slowly over time.
Fatigue is another common problem for women who have received chemo. This may last a few months up to several years. It can often be helped, so its important to let your doctor or nurse know about it. Exercise, naps, and conserving energy may be recommended. If you have sleep problems, they can be treated. Sometimes fatigue can be a sign of depression, which may be helped by counseling and/or medicines.
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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.
Key Points To Remember
- Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery for early-stage breast cancer to help lower the chances that your breast cancer will come back.
- Some types of cancer have a very small chance of coming back. Women who have those types of cancer may not need chemo. There are gene tests that may show whether having chemo will help you reduce your chances that the cancer will return.
- Your age, type of cancer, tumor size, and hormone receptor status have an effect on how well chemo will work to keep your cancer from coming back.
- Different medicines used for chemo have different side effects. Your doctor can give you other medicines to help you deal with side effects like nausea and vomiting. Some women are bothered a lot by the side effects, but some aren’t.
- The drugs used for chemo can be very expensive. Insurance policies don’t always cover the whole cost. If you have no insurance, your doctor may be able to help you find drug companies or organizations that will help you pay for this treatment.
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Adjuvant And Neoadjuvant Drugs
Although drug combinations are often used to treat early breast cancer, advanced breast cancer more often is treated with single chemo drugs. Still, some combinations, such as paclitaxel plus gemcitabine, are commonly used to treat advanced breast cancer.
For cancers that are HER2-positive, one or more drugs that target HER2 may be used with chemo.
What Happens Before Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
A few days before your chemotherapy treatment, youll have blood tests. The blood tests tell your oncologist and pharmacist how to tailor your treatment based on your laboratory values and body mass index .
You may receive chemotherapy through a large, sturdy tube called a central venous catheter . If your healthcare provider recommends a CVC, it will be surgically implanted before treatment. It stays in place until you finish chemotherapy. Types of CVCs include:
- Central line: Long, plastic tube inserted near your heart or in a neck vein.
- Peripherally inserted central catheter : A central line that goes in through an arm vein.
- Port-a-cath : A small, implantable chamber where your nurse gives drug injections.
Will I Need Chemotherapy After A Total Mastectomy
A total mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast to treat breast cancer. A physician may recommend this treatment on its own or in combination with another therapy, such as chemotherapy. When chemotherapy is provided after surgery, it is called adjuvant chemotherapy. Whether or not chemotherapy is recommended following a total mastectomy will depend on many different factors, including the patients overall health, age and medical history as well as the type, stage and nature of the breast cancer.
How Quickly Do Breast Cancer Tumors Grow From Stage To Stage
Cancer cells divide and multiply quickly in such a way that as a tumor gets bigger, it divides and grows even faster. The average doubling time for breast cancer tumors is between 50 and 200 days. Breast cancer tumor growth rate is impacted by hormonal factors, such as hormone receptor status and HER2 status.
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How Is The Risk Of Recurrence Determined
Doctors determine a womans risk of recurrence after breast cancer surgery based on various clinical criteria:
- Involvement of lymph nodes: Has the cancer spread to lymph nodes? If so, how many lymph nodes?
- Hormone sensitivity: Does the tumor have receptors for hormones such as estrogen and progesterone ?
- Grade of differentiation: How different are the tumor cells to normal breast cells?
- Size of the tumor: How big is the tumor?
- Speed of tumor growth: How fast did the tumor cells grow ?
- Growth factors: Does the tumor have a lot of receptors for certain growth factors ?
- Age: How old is the woman? Has she already reached menopause?
A lot of these clinical criteria are determined based on a tissue sample taken from the tumor during surgery.
Doctors use special tables to help them estimate the risk of recurrence.
The risk of recurrence is a measure of how likely it is that a woman will get cancer again. Its not possible to predict whether the cancer will return in a particular woman.
In some women it also makes sense to do an oncotype DX test. This involves looking at other biological characteristics of the tumor in a laboratory.
Could Low Dose Chemo Be An Option For You
If you have been on a Healthy Breast journey for a while, then it should be no secret to you that cancer cells feed on glucose. Armed with this knowledge, you know that you must AVOID SUGARY FOODS at all costs if you want to prevent and heal cancer. If you are currently on a healing path and are considering options, you may also be able to use cancers needs for extra glucose to your advantage. Insulin Potentiated Therapy, or IPT, takes advantage of cancers obsession with sugar to strategically use the best of both conventional treatment and natural healing.
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Cancer Researchers Worry Immunotherapy May Hasten Growth Of Tumors In Some Patients
Depending on characteristics such as how many tumor cells, blood vessel cells, and immune cells are touching each other, the tumor microenvironment can nearly triple the chance that a common type of breast cancer that has reached the lymph nodes will also metastasize, Condeelis and colleagues showed in a 2014 study of 3,760 patients. The discovery of how the tumor microenvironment can fuel metastasis by whisking cancer cells into blood vessels so impressed Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, that he featured it in his blog.
The new study took the next logical step: Can the tumor microenvironment be altered so that it promotes or thwarts metastasis?
To find out, Einsteins George Karagiannis spent nearly three years experimenting with lab mice whose genetic mutations make them spontaneously develop breast cancer, as well as mice given human breast tumors. In both cases, paclitaxel changed the tumor microenvironments in three ways, all more conducive to metastasis: The microenvironment had more of the immune cells that carry cancer cells into blood vessels, it developed blood vessels that were more permeable to cancer cells, and the tumor cells became more mobile, practically bounding into those molecular Lyfts.
Pre-op chemo may have unwanted long-term consequences in some breast cancer patients, the Einstein researchers wrote.
What Else Do You Need To Make Your Decision
Check the facts
- No, it’s not a main treatment. Chemotherapy is an added treatment, a sort of insurance policy designed to kill any cancer cells that may still be in your body after surgery.
- You’re right. Chemotherapy is an added treatment, a sort of insurance policy designed to kill any cancer cells that may still be in your body after surgery.
- It may help to go back and read “Get the Facts.” Chemo is an added treatment, a sort of insurance policy designed to kill any cancer cells that may still be in your body after surgery.
- No, not every woman will need chemo. It depends on what type of breast cancer she has and how far it has spread.
- You’re right. Not every woman will need chemo. It depends on what type of breast cancer she has and how far it has spread.
- It may help to go back and read “Get the Facts.” Not every woman will need chemo. It depends on what type of breast cancer she has and how far it has spread.
- No, some women are not bothered by side effects. Your doctor can give you other medicines to help you deal with side effects like nausea and vomiting.
- That’s right. Some women are not bothered by side effects. Your doctor can give you other medicines to help you deal with side effects like nausea and vomiting.
- It may help to go back and read “Get the Facts.” Some women are not bothered by side effects.
1.How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
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How Long Is Chemo For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy is often administered after surgery to remove any undetected breast cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also help reduce your risk of the cancer returning.
Chemotherapy should usually be given within 30 days of surgery and less than 120 days from the initial diagnosis. One study showed women who started chemotherapy two months after surgery had a 19 percent lower chance to survive compared to women who began chemotherapy a month after surgery.
Treatment comes in cycles that can occur once a week or once every three weeks. Following a period of recovery, this process can continue for up to six months. Women with more aggressive forms of cancer may receive chemotherapy for longer than that.
Not all stages of cancer require chemotherapy. Depending on the results of pathology from surgery, your doctor will decide the best plan for adjuvant treatment. You may also be a candidate for hormonal therapy.
Questions To Ask The Health Care Team
Who is creating my chemotherapy treatment plan? How often will the plan be reviewed?
Which health care professionals will I see at every treatment session?
How will I receive chemotherapy treatments? Will I need a port?
Will I need any tests or scans before this treatment begins?
Can you describe what my first treatment will be like?
How long will each treatment session take?
Will I need someone to drive me home after each session?
How often will I have chemotherapy? For how long?
What are the common side effects of the chemotherapy I will receive?
Who should I talk with about any side effects I experience?
Should I track the side effects I experience at home?
Are there side effects I should let you know about right away?
Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious about having this treatment?
What type of caregiving could I need at home?
How will we know if the chemotherapy is working?
What follow-up care will I need after chemotherapy?
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