What Is Complementary Medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine are medicines and health practices that are not standard cancer treatments. Complementary medicine is used in addition to standard treatments, and alternative medicine is used instead of standard treatments. Meditation, yoga, and supplements like vitamins and herbs are some examples.
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 Has A Better Understanding Of Breast Cancer Changed Treatment
Years ago, people thought about breast cancer as a single, monolithic, often life-threatening disease. The disease was subdivided into four stages: In Stage I, the tumor is small and has not spread beyond the original site with Stage II and III cancers, the tumor is larger than in Stage I and may have spread to the lymph nodes and in Stage IV, cancer has spread, or metastasized, to other parts of the body.
Outside of their stages, these cancers were thought to be the same disease, and every patient was given the same treatment.
But stage is really just the amount of cancer, Dr. Winer says. And while the stage is still part of determining treatment, its more important to take into account the type of cancer, he adds.
To that end, the types of breast cancers are categorized by their hormone receptors and whats called HER2 status.
Breast cancer cells that contain receptors for hormones like estrogen and/or progesterone are said to be hormone receptor -positive. And cancer cells that have high levels of receptors are called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 -positive.
Cancer cells that do not contain hormones or HER2 receptors are called hormone receptor -negative or HER2-negative, respectively.
And breast cancers that do not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 are known as triple-negative.
Also Check: Stool Test For Colon Cancer
How Is Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Administered
Chemotherapy is commonly prescribed along with other treatment methods such as hormonal and targeted therapies. It can also be used to shrink a tumor before surgery for easier and safer removal, referred to as neoadjuvant chemotherapy.If you receive chemotherapy, your doctor will administer it in short courses with several weeks in between to allow your normal cells to recover. This treatment period can be a challenging time emotionally and physically. It is important for you to develop a support team of family or friends that can help comfort and encourage you in this time.
Does Her2 Cause Breast Cancer To Grow Faster
HER2-positive tumors tend to grow faster than tumors that do not express the HER2 protein. However, recurrence rates vary and depend upon more than simply the HER2 status of the tumor. Like other breast cancers, recurrence rates depend upon the extent of spread of the tumor at the time of diagnosis
Recommended Reading: How I Cured My Cervical Cancer
Are There Ways To Prevent Hair Loss With Chemotherapy
Not everyone loses hair when receiving chemotherapy, but many people do. Some peoples hair only thins. Others lose the majority or all of their hair.
Using a cold cap can reduce hair loss. Cold caps cool your scalp before, during and after chemotherapy treatment. Cooling tightens the blood vessels in your scalp, potentially reducing how much chemotherapy goes to your hair follicles.
People may choose to wear a wig as a result of hair loss. Some private insurance companies may help cover wig costs if your doctor prescribes a cranial prosthesis or hair prosthesis. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover wigs, but the costs may be tax-deductible.
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 doesn’t 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.
Recommended Reading: What To Expect After Chemo For Lymphoma
How Effective Is Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy for breast cancer frequently is used in addition to other treatments, such as surgery, radiation or hormone therapy. Chemotherapy can be used to increase the chance of a cure, decrease the risk of the cancer returning, alleviate symptoms from the cancer or help people with cancer live longer with a better quality of life.
How Is Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer Given
Chemo drugs for breast cancer are typically given into a vein , either as an injection over a few minutes or as an infusion over a longer period of time. This can be done in a doctors office, infusion center, or in a hospital setting.
Often, a slightly larger and sturdier IV is required in the vein system to administer chemo. These are known as central venous catheters , central venous access devices , or central lines. They are used to put medicines, blood products, nutrients, or fluids right into your blood. They can also be used to take out blood for testing.
There are many different kinds of CVCs. The most common types are the port and the PICC line. For breast cancer patients, the central line is typically placed on the side opposite of the breast cancer. If a woman has breast cancer in both breasts, the central line will most likely be placed on the side that had fewer lymph nodes removed or involved with cancer.
Chemo is given in cycles, followed by a rest period to give you time to recover from the effects of the drugs. Chemo cycles are most often 2 or 3 weeks long. The schedule varies depending on the drugs used. For example, with some drugs, chemo is given only on the first day of the cycle. With others, it is given one day a week for a few weeks or every other week. Then, at the end of the cycle, the chemo schedule repeats to start the next cycle.
Read Also: D Amour Center For Cancer Care
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.
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
Read Also: Can Chemo Patients Eat Salads
Decrease In Blood Cell Counts:
Why it happens: Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body, white blood cells help fight infection, and platelets help stop bleeding. These normal, healthy cells divide rapidly, just like the cancer cells, which is why chemo often affects these benign cells in addition to the cancer cells.
How to handle anemia :
- Get at least eight hours of sleep each night
- Take short naps during the day
- Limit your activities by setting priorities of what you need to get completed for the day
- Accept help when your family and friends offer
- Eat a well-balanced diet that contains all the calories and protein your body needs to keep your weight up and repair tissues that have been harmed by the chemo
How to handle infections :
- Wash your hands with soap and water
- Carry hand sanitizer
- Use sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces and items that you touch
- Be gentle and thorough when you wipe after a bowel movement
- Take good care of your skin and clean cuts right away
- Stay away from people who are sick or crowds
- Wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating them
- Do not eat raw or undercooked fish, seafood, meat, chicken, or eggs
- If you are a pet owner, have someone else clean up animal waste
- Do not get a flu shot or other vaccine without first checking with your cancer doctor or nurse.
How to handle a low platelet count:
Your doctor or nurse will order blood tests to find out your blood counts throughout your chemo treatment.
You Said Oncologists Dont Always Follow Guidelines Why Not
Clinicians may not always follow the guidelines because they know the patient best. Thatâs why theyâre not requirements. However, often clinicians may be too busy to keep up or they may not be up to date or as familiar with recent changes in supportive care when rapidly changing, complex therapeutic decisions occupy their minds.
The guidelines get updated every year or two with new evidence and new data. The growth in the field and the expansion of knowledge has been more rapid in recent years. There are new agents and new studies to show who should get these agents and who shouldnât. Keeping up with all of this, on top of their primary concern â the cancer itself â is a lot.
Read Also: Can Tooth Pain Radiate From Top To Bottom
Mouth And Throat Changes
Why it happens: Since chemo affects fast-growing cells, like the cells that line your entire GI tract , you may experience changes in these parts of your body.
Problems may include:
- Changes in taste and smell
- Infections in your gums, teeth or tongue
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods
How to handle:
- Visit a dentist at least two weeks before starting chemo
- Check your mouth and tongue every day, especially if you wear dentures or a partial plate
- Keep your mouth moist by sipping water all day
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime
- Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol
- Take small bites of food
- Soften food with gravy, broth or other liquids
- Suck on popsicles or ice chips.
You cancer doctor or nurse may refer you to a dietitian who can provide further education.
Practical And Personal Issues
Breast cancer affects more than just your breasts. It can impact your quality of life: your day-to-day routines and the person you know yourself to be, emotionally and physically.
- Surgeries such as mastectomy or hair loss from chemotherapy are just some examples of how treatment can change the way you feel about your physical self your body image.
- A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can also have emotional side effects.
- If you are young and premenopausal , breast cancer treatments can affect your fertility.
- Hair loss may affects the way you view your body and femininity.
Here are the most common breast cancer treatments that can cause side effects:
- Chemotherapy can cause side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and hair loss.
- HER2-targeted therapies can cause diarrhea, fatigue, and low blood cell counts.
- Radiation therapy are skin changes, breast soreness, and breast swelling.
- Surgery can cause side effects including breast pain, tightness, and swelling, and scar tissue where the incision, or cut, was made.
- Breast reconstruction side effects can sometimes include stiffness and range-of-motion issues, depending on what type of reconstruction youre having.
- Hormonal therapy can cause side effects that include hot flashes, fatigue, and joint and bone pain.
Also Check: Prostate Cancer Symptoms Back Pain
Does Immunotherapy Come With Side Effects
The most common side effect of immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as pembrolizumab, are rash, diarrhea and fatigue, but side effects vary from person to person.
Side effects that occur with immunotherapy are related to how the immune system responds. “A good analogy is revving up your car engine with your foot on the break, then suddenly releasing your foot off the brake,” says Dr. Advani. “Thats exactly what immunotherapy does it allows the immune system to recognize the tumor, but sometimes that response can be misdirected toward normal tissues.”
“A good analogy is revving up your car engine with your foot on the break, then suddenly releasing your foot off the brake. Thats exactly what immunotherapy does it allows the immune system to recognize the tumor, but sometimes that response can be misdirected toward normal tissues.”
Pooja Advani, M.D.
This misdirected immune response can cause inflammation in normal tissues, leading to rarer side effects, such as hepatitis , pneumonitis or myocarditis .
“Fortunately, the incidence of these life-threatening complications is relatively low with the type of immunotherapy that is approved for triple-negative breast cancer, but certainly important to know and discuss with your health care professional,” says Dr. Advani. “More common side effects are mild flu-like symptoms around the period that patients receive the infusion, including fever, chills, and joint and muscle aches.”
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.
Also Check: Do Phones Give Off Radiation
What Types Of Immunotherapy Are Available For Triple
Currently, pembrolizumab is the only immunotherapy approved for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. It can be used together with chemotherapy or other cancer medicines before surgery and then continued alone after surgery to treat:
- People with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer who are at high risk of the cancer coming back.
- People with triple-negative breast cancer that has spread or cannot be removed by surgery and whose tumors express a protein called PD-L1.
“Chemotherapy alone for the longest time was the standard of care for this disease,” says Dr. Advani. “In both these patient populations, studies have shown that the combination of immunotherapy with chemotherapy is far superior to chemotherapy alone for triple-negative breast cancer. For the patient, it means an improvement in overall survival.”
“The use of immunotherapy is one of the real success stories that’s moving forward in triple-negative breast cancer right now,” agrees Matthew Goetz, M.D., a medical oncologist, co-leader of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center Womens Cancer Program and principal investigator of the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer SPORE.
What Is Cancer Coach
Our Cancer Coach support groups are available to anyone who has completed their physical cancer treatment and is experiencing low mood, anxiety and worry, and doesnt know how to move forward in their recovery.
The groups are suitable for people who have previously had a stage 1-3 diagnosis.
The course takes participants through a series of weekly facilitated group sessions, run for a six-week period over the telephone or online video. The sessions take participants through a series of strategies, techniques and exercises that aim to furnish them with the tools, support and coping strategies that can help them on their recovery journey.
Our trained group facilitators talk participants through the negative thought patterns that can linger after treatment ends, how to challenge them, as well as how to manage worries. There is also a chance to talk to others in the group, all of whom are recovering following the end of treatment. This ensures everyone can receive and give valuable peer support and encouragement.
The course is free and completely confidential, accessible via the telephone or online video, from the comfort and privacy of home.
Recommended Reading: Other Signs Of Breast Cancer
You May Like: Cancer Center Treatment Of America Locations