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Side Effects Of Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

How Long Does Chemo Take For Breast Cancer

What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?

Then, at the end of the cycle, the chemo schedule repeats to start the next cycle. Adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemo is often given for a total of 3 to 6 months, depending on the drugs used. The length of treatment for metastatic breast cancer depends on how well it is working and what side effects you have.

What Is The Treatment For Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy may also be given as the main treatment for women whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body outside of the breast and lymph nodes. This spread is known as metastatic breast cancer and occurs in a small number of women at the time of diagnosis or when the cancer recurs some time after initial treatment for localized breast

What Happens During Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

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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    What Happens After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

    Immediately after chemotherapy, you may feel sleepy or nauseated. Typically, the side effects of chemotherapy go away after you complete all prescribed cycles.

    After all of your cycles of chemotherapy are completed, your healthcare provider may order imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, to show whether the cancer is gone or the tumor has shrunk.

    Types Of Targeted Therapies

    Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy Side Effects

    There are several different types of targeted therapies available for the treatment of breast cancer.

    Trastuzumab and pertuzumab are the two most common monoclonal antibodies used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer. These medications are typically administered through an IV infusion and are used in combination with chemotherapy.

    After chemotherapy has finished, treatment with medications like Herceptin generally continues every 3 weeks over a total period of 1 year.

    Neratinib is another type of targeted therapy, which is taken orally and is designed to help prevent the recurrence of HER2-positive breast cancer for patients whove completed 1 year of Herceptin.

    Other drugs like lapatinib and tucatinib , both oral medications, and ado-trastuzumab emtansine , which is administered through an IV, are also available for the treatment of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.

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    What Are The Health Problems That Affect Chemo

    Certain health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes, may affect which drugs are selected for your chemotherapy. Hormone receptor status. If your cancer cells have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy in addition to chemotherapy. HER2 status.

    Is Chemotherapy The Only Treatment For Breast Cancer

    No. Occasionally, chemotherapy is the only breast cancer treatment, but most often, healthcare providers use chemotherapy with other treatments, such as:

    • Lumpectomy: Removing the tumor and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.
    • Mastectomy: Removing one or both breasts.
    • Hormone therapy: Taking medicines that lower estrogen or block estrogens effects on cancer cells.
    • Targeted therapy: Taking medicines that target the changes in cancer cells to destroy them or slow their growth.
    • Radiation therapy: Using high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.

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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.

    Nerve And Muscle Problems

    What to Expect from Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

    Some chemotherapy drugs can cause nerve and muscle problems during treatment. Severe problems are uncommon. More common symptoms include tingling, burning or numbness in the hands or feet. Some women have problems with balance or have weak or sore muscles for a few days after chemotherapy. These symptoms are more common with taxane drugs.Treatment can be adjusted for women experiencing nerve or muscle problems.

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    Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy has many common side effects.

    Most side effects occur during treatment and begin to go away shortly after treatment ends. Others can last for months or even years.

    How common and how severe the side effects are depend on the chemotherapy drugs used.

    Its normal to worry about possible side effects of chemotherapy.

    Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.

    Your provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to chemotherapy .

    Learn more about support groups.

    What Happens During Chemo For Breast Cancer

    Or you may have chemotherapy as your primary breast cancer treatment. Usually, you receive chemotherapy in two- to three-week cycles, with periods of rest between cycles. Throughout treatment, its normal to experience hair loss, nausea, vomiting or fatigue. These symptoms may take a few weeks or months to disappear.

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    What Is An Anthracycline

    An anthracycline is a type of chemotherapy that attacks enzymes inside of cancer cells DNA which helps them divide and grow. Anthracyclines used in breast cancer treatment include doxorubicin, liposomal doxorubicin, and epirubicin. These anthracyclines are bright red in color and may cause temporary discoloration of urine and bodily fluids.

    What Is The Main Effect Of Chemotherapy

    Side effects of radiation for breast cancer: What to know

    In cancer treatment, chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs whose main effect is either to kill or to slow the growth of rapidly multiplying cancer cells. Chemotherapy often includes using a combination of drugs, since this approach is more effective than using a single drug alone. There are many drug combinations used to treat breast cancer.

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    What To Expect During Chemotherapy Treatment

    Some chemotherapy medicines for breast cancer can be taken orally as pills. But most chemotherapy medicines are given as an infusion into a vein through an IV, a port, or a catheter over a period of time.

    Chemotherapy is given in cycles a period of treatment followed by a period of recovery. One cycle may include chemotherapy on the first day and then three weeks of recovery with no treatment.

    A chemotherapy treatment regimen is made up of several cycles. The number of cycles in a regimen and the total time it takes to complete one regimen depends on the chemotherapy medicines you receive. But most regimens take three to six months to complete.

    In some cases, if the cancer is considered aggressive, doctors may recommend a dose-dense chemotherapy regimen. Dose-dense chemotherapy means there is less time between cycles say every two weeks instead of every three weeks.

    What To Expect During Treatment

    You usually get chemo in an outpatient center at a hospital or clinic. If you have early stage breast cancer, youâll probably get treatments for 3 to 6 months. It may last longer for advanced breast cancer. Youâll have treatment in cycles, which could be just once a week or as often as three times a week. If youâre getting radiation and chemo together, youâll get the radiation after the chemo treatment. You may want to have someone drive you home the first few times until you know how it affects you.

    On the day of treatment:

    • Technicians will take some of your blood for tests.
    • Your doctor will go over the blood test results and talk about your overall health.
    • The doctor orders the treatment.
    • Youâll meet with the person on your health care team whoâs going to give you the chemo.
    • Theyâll check your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure.
    • Theyâll put the IV into your vein.
    • Theyâll give you medications to prevent nausea, anxiety, and inflammation along with the chemotherapy.
    • When your treatment is done, theyâll remove your IV and check your vital signs again.
    • Youâll get prescriptions for dugs you can take at home to help with side effects.
    • Theyâll tell you what is OK to eat and drink once youâre home.

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    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.

    Choosing A Chemo Combination

    Adjuvant And Neoadjuvant Therapy Side Effects-Dr. David Margileth

    Your doctor will probably talk to you about combining different chemo drugs. They may refer to them by abbreviations for their names. Some of the most common include:

    • AC: Adriamycin and Cytoxan
    • CMF: Cytoxan, methotrexate, and fluorouracil
    • FAC: Fluorouracil, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan
    • CAF: Cytoxan, Adriamycin, and fluorouracil

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    How Long Does Chemotherapy Take For Breast Cancer

    Typically, you receive chemotherapy in cycles. You may receive chemo every week or every two, three or even four weeks. Cycles are usually two to three treatments long. Each cycle includes a rest period to allow your body to recover. For example, you may have the same treatment every Monday for three weeks. Then you have an extra week to recover before repeating the cycle. Many people have multiple treatment cycles in a row. Treatment may last three to six months.

    How Breast Cancer Is Treated

    In cancer care, doctors specializing in different areas of cancer treatmentsuch as surgery, radiation oncology, and medical oncologywork together with radiologists and pathologists to create a patients overall treatment plan that combines different types of treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary team. Cancer care teams include a variety of other health care professionals, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, nutritionists, and others. For people older than 65, a geriatric oncologist or geriatrician may also be involved in their care. Ask the members of your treatment team who is the primary contact for questions about scheduling and treatment, who is in charge during different parts of treatment, how they communicate across teams, and whether there is 1 contact who can help with communication across specialties, such as a nurse navigator. This can change over time as your health care needs change.

    A treatment plan is a summary of your cancer and the planned cancer treatment. It is meant to give basic information about your medical history to any doctors who will care for you during your lifetime. Before treatment begins, ask your doctor for a copy of your treatment plan. You can also provide your doctor with a copy of the ASCO Treatment Plan form to fill out.

    Learn more about making treatment decisions.

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    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.

    When Are Side Effects An Emergency


    Contact your doctor urgently if you have any of the following symptoms after chemotherapy:

    • Fever or chills can be a sign of infection and need urgent attention.
    • Mouth ulcers, swollen tongue, bleeding gums
    • Dry throat and difficulty on swallowing
    • Persistent cough
    • Any change in your bowel habits
    • Increased or decreased frequency of urination, or any pus or blood in urine
    • Severe vomiting or diarrhea

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    Are You A Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patient Or Caregiver Trying To Determine What Treatment Plan Is Right For You Or A Loved One

    The Oncotype DX breast cancer test is a genomic test that may help guide treatment decisions for patients with non-invasive breast cancer, often referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ , and help early-stage invasive breast cancer patients with estrogen receptor -positive HER2 negative disease with node negative or up to three positive lymph nodes evaluate if they will benefit from chemotherapy..

    Will I Need Chemotherapy After A Total Mastectomy

    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.

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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.

    Ways To Manage Side Effects Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

    Late effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment

    1. For Loss of Appetite

    • Try to have small frequent meals and have the largest meal of the day when you feel most hungry.
    • You can snack on nutrient rich shakes.
    • Try to avoid drinking water or juices just before the meals.
    • Keep yourself well hydrated.
    • Exercise and stay active for a healthy appetite.

    2. For Nausea and Vomiting

    • There are some medicines which can be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting, ask your doctor about them.
    • Avoid very hot, oily or spicy food.
    • Have small portions and frequent meals.
    • Try bland foods which do not trigger nausea.
    • Herbal teas can be helpful.

    If the nausea or vomiting is severe, contact your doctor urgently.

    3. For Weakness and Fatigue

    Chemotherapy can make you tired, exhausted and depressed.

    • Try to have proper rest and sleep.
    • Keep as active as you can and have some light exercise or walk every day.
    • Involve your friends and family and learn to delegate some tasks to them.
    • Do let your doctor know if you have any pain or the tiredness is too much to bear.
    • Eat a nutrient rich diet.
    • Certain medicines can boost blood cell production and can be prescribed to treat fatigue.

    4. For Mouth Soreness

    Mouth ulcers can be very painful and these frequently occur with chemotherapy. There are some medicines which can help to reduce the pain and soreness of these ulcers. To be comfortable, avoid spicy and citrus food and keep yourself well hydrated.

    5. For Weight Gain

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    Can You Get Chemo After Surgery

    If you are receiving adjuvant chemotherapy , it is not possible for your doctor to directly determine whether the treatment is working because there are no tumor cells left to assess. However, adjuvant chemotherapy treatments have been proven helpful in studies in which some women were given chemotherapy, while others were not. If you are receiving chemotherapy for metastatic disease, the effects will be monitored, routinely, by blood tests, scans, and/or other imaging studies. These may include CT scans, bone scans, and/or X-rays).

    Effects On Your Concentration

    Some people find treatment affects their ability to concentrate and makes them more forgetful.

    This is sometimes called chemo brain or chemo fog, but your treatment team may call it cognitive impairment. It usually improves over time after treatment has finished, but for some people it can continue for longer.

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    What Do I Need To Know About Side Effects

    • Every person doesnt get every side effect, and some people get few, if any.
    • The severity of side effects varies greatly from person to person. Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about which side effects are most common with your chemo, how long they might last, how bad they might be, and when you should call the doctors office about them.
    • Your doctor may give you medicines to help prevent certain side effects before they happen.
    • Some chemo drugs cause long-term side effects, like heart or nerve damage or fertility problems. Still, many people have no long-term problems from chemo. Ask your doctor if the chemo drugs youre getting have long-term effects.

    While side effects can be unpleasant, they must be weighed against the need to kill the cancer cells.

    Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about which side effects are most common with your chemo, how long they might last, how bad they might be, and when you should call the doctors office about them.


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