Why Is It Important To Talk To Your Doctor About Breast Pain
Its important to talk to your physician if you have breast pain from any cause . Even if its not due to cancer, many women find that breast pain decreases their quality of life. In one study,15% of the women experienced breast pain at some time in their life that interfered with work and family activities. So, make sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any suspicious discomfort.
Managing Your Hair Loss
Losing your hair can cause more than a change in your physical appearance. It can be an emotional challenge that affects your self-image and quality of life. It is important to be kind to yourself during this stressful time.
People cope with hair loss in different ways. Thinking about how you feel most comfortable in managing hair loss before, during, and after treatment may help. And, your choices may change over time.
Cold cap therapy
Wearing a cap that cools the scalp can help prevent hair loss from drugs given through a vein. This treatment is called scalp cryotherapy. You wear the cap before, during, and after chemotherapy.
The cold makes the blood vessels in the skin of your head narrower. Less blood and less of the chemotherapy drug reaches your hair follicles through the blood vessels. Keeping your scalp very cold also helps prevent damage to the hair follicles. Talk with your health care team to learn if cold cap therapy is available and might work for you.
An over-the-counter medication called minoxidil may help thinning hair from hormonal therapy or targeted therapy. It may also help if your hair does not grow back completely after chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a stem cell/bone marrow transplant.
There are also other medications you can take by mouth. These include spironolactone and finasteride .
How Are Mouth Sores Treated
The best way to manage mouth sores is to prevent them or treat them early. If you are receiving chemotherapy, sucking on ice chips right before and during treatment may prevent mouth sores. Visit a dentist that specializes in cancer care before starting radiation therapy to the head or neck area.
Your doctor may also recommend pain relief strategies, like a mouthwash solution called magic mouthwash, magic mud, or triple mix. Ingredients in this mouthwash may vary, but it typically includes an antihistamine, anesthetic, an antacid, antibiotics, and/or an antifungal. You may be prescribed prescription pain medicine or they may suggest over-the-counter acetaminophen. Avoid taking aspirin during cancer treatment unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Your health care team may use a prescription liquid medication called palifermin . This medicine is given by vein . It can be used before and after certain treatments to reduce the risk of mucositis.Its important to continue to eat and drink regularly during cancer treatment, but mouth sores may make it uncomfortable. To help, take your pain medicine 30 minutes before you eat or drink. Talking with a registered dietitian can be very helpful to get other strategies to help with mouth sores. For instance, they can help figure out whether you need to take food supplements, such as protein shakes, to get the nutrition you need.
It is a good idea to take special care of your mouth during cancer treatment. The following tips may help:
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Side Effects Can Vary
There are dozens of ways chemo might affect you, from fatigue and constipation to hair loss, nausea, and mood changes. But it’s not the same for everyone. Some people get few side effects or even none at all.
Which ones you get depend partly on what drugs you take. But it’s hard to predict until you start treatment. Talk to your doctor about what to expect.
Engage In A Calming Activity
Its possible that you may experience many different feelings during chemotherapy, such as anxiety, sadness, or anger. Doing a calming activity may help you to cope with these feelings when they occur. Some examples include:
- taking part in a hobby that you enjoy
- visiting with family and friends
- trying out meditation or breathing exercises
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What Are Side Effects
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the two most common types of cancer treatment. They work by destroying these fast-growing cells. But other types of fast-growing healthy cells also can be damaged along with cancer cells, causing adverse reactions, or side effects.
Side effects can range from tiredness and nausea to hair loss and blood clotting problems. Because each person responds a little differently to treatment and it’s hard for doctors to predict exactly how the body will react, they’ll closely watch a child who is being treated for cancer. Doctors weigh the amount and severity of side effects against the benefits of treatments.
Fortunately, most side effects are temporary. As the body’s normal cells recover, these problems start to go away. There are also good supportive treatments that can lessen the side effects.
Side effects vary:
- Some can be merely unpleasant, while others can be much more serious.
- Some show up right away, while others develop over time.
- Some kids have just a few, while others have many over the course of treatment.
Effects On The Nervous System
Some drugs can make you feel anxious, restless, dizzy, sleepy or have headaches. If you have any of these, it is important to tell your cancer doctor or nurse. They may be able to prescribe medicines that can help with some of these effects.
Some people find that chemotherapy makes them forgetful or unable to concentrate during or after treatment. Doctors sometimes call this cancer-related cognitive changes but it is sometimes known as chemo brain. If this happens, it is usually mild.
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Symptoms Of Nervous System Problems
Nervous system symptoms may lead to a cancer diagnosis, appear soon after treatment, or appear several years after treatment. The symptoms you experience depend on the part of the nervous system affected.
Learn more about peripheral neuropathy.
Cranial nerve symptoms
The cranial nerve is also part of the PNS but can cause some distinct symptoms, such as:
Hearing loss and/or a ringing in the ears called tinnitus.
Vision loss and/or side effects such as blurred or double vision.
Changes in taste and smell.
Slurred speech or difficulty expressing oneself or understanding speech.
Possible Late Effects Of Chemotherapy
Sometimes side effects do not go away, or they can develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects.
Late effects may be minor and not affect your daily life much. Or, they may be more difficult to live with. There are usually things that can help you cope with them. Some late effects improve over time and may eventually go away on their own.
Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can explain any possible late effects of your chemotherapy treatment. Different drugs cause different late effects. Some drugs may cause an early menopause and infertility. We have more information about how cancer treatment can affect fertility in men and fertility in women.
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Memory And Concentration Problems
Some people have problems with their short-term memory, concentration and attention span during chemotherapy. You may find that routines tasks take much longer than usual.
It’s unclear why this happens, but the symptoms usually improve once treatment is finished.
Things such as using lists, post-it notes, calendars and your mobile phone for reminders can help. Doing some mental exercises, eating well, and getting enough rest may also be useful.
An Increased Risk Of Getting An Infection
Chemotherapy drugs often stop the bone marrow from making enough white blood cells. White blood cells are part of your defence against infection.
When your white blood cells are low, bacteria can quickly increase in the blood. You might not have enough white blood cells to fight the bacteria. So a minor infection can become life threatening within hours.
Signs of infection
Its important to tell your hospital treatment team urgently if you have any signs of infection such as:
- an increase in your temperature to 38 degrees Celsius or higher
- feeling cold and shivery
- pain passing urine
- a lower than normal temperature
You might need antibiotics by injection or through a drip to control the infection. Tablets might not be enough.
Neither you or your doctor can tell whose fever could develop into a severe illness. So all possible infections must be treated urgently.
Your doctor won’t think you are making a fuss about something minor. It is better to be on the safe side.
Some chemotherapy drugs can affect your hearing. This usually gets better when treatment finishes, but your doctor may reduce the dose of your treatment or change your treatment.
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Focus On Calories And Protein
When youre on chemotherapy, its important to keep up your strength to help your body heal and to cope with any treatment side effects. Because of this, youll need to have extra calories and protein in your diet.
Some examples of foods that can help you to add both of these things to your diet include:
- meat and poultry
- liquid meal replacement products like Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast
Your Bone Marrow And Blood
Chemotherapy can reduce the number of blood cells made by the bone marrow. Bone marrow is a spongy material that is found in the middle of your bones. It makes special cells called stem cells. These develop into the different types of blood cells:
- red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of the body
- white blood cells, which fight and prevent infection
- platelets, which help the blood to clot and prevent bleeding and bruising.
You will have regular blood samples taken to check the number of these cells in your blood. This is called a full blood count.
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What Are Common Side Effects Of Chemo
Most people worry about whether theyll have side effects from chemo, and, if so, what theyll be like. Here are some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
- Peripheral neuropathy or other nerve problems, such as numbness, tingling, and pain
- Skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
- Urine and bladder changes and kidney problems
- Chemo brain, which can affect concentration and focus
- Changes in libido and sexual function
- Fertility problems
Learn more about these and other problems in Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.
You Might Be Able To Continue Your Work During Chemotherapy
Chemo isn’t always as overwhelming as you might expect. Some people can work during treatment. Since you won’t know how you’ll feel until you start, it’s best to have a flexible schedule. Working part-time or from home on days that you don’t feel well can help you stay on top of your job without getting too exhausted.
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Things To Know Before Your First Chemo Treatment
It’s only natural that you would have questions and maybe even worries prior to your first chemotherapy treatment. Your care team will discuss your chemotherapy plan in advance, which can help ease your anxiety. Still, there’s a lot to learn and absorb.
Here are eight things to know so you feel more confident and prepared going into your first chemo session.
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Nausea And Vomiting Due To Radiation Therapy
The part of the body being treated. The risk is greatest when the brain is treated, or the area of the body being treated includes a large part of the upper abdomen mainly the small intestine and/or the liver.
Total body irradiation is linked to a high risk of nausea and vomiting if treatment is not given to prevent it. Patients may also get high doses of chemo to prepare for transplant, which further raises the chance of nausea and vomiting.
The dose of radiation given. The bigger the dose of radiation given, the higher the risk for nausea and vomiting.
How often the treatment is given. People who get one large dose of radiation have a greater chance of nausea and vomiting than those who get radiation that is spread out over smaller doses.
If chemotherapy or another drug to treat cancer is given along with the radiation. When radiation is given along with chemo, the anti-emetic treatment used is based on the nausea and vomiting risk of the chemo drugs given.
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How Does Chemotherapy Increase My Risk For Getting An Infection
Chemotherapy drugs treat cancer by killing the fastest-growing cells in the bodyboth cancer cells and good cells.
White blood cells are good cells that help your body fight infections. Chemotherapy kills many of these cells. This is a side effect called neutropenia.
Germs enter your body. With fewer white blood cells, your body cant kill the germs as well as it could before you started chemotherapy. So youre more likely to get sick.
How Sick Does Breast Cancer Treatment Make You
Chemo, radiation, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy can cause nausea and sometimes vomiting in some people. But localized radiation for breast cancer is less likely to cause vomiting. It can happen right after treatment or a few days later. Ask your doctor about medications that can make you feel better.
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Increased Bleeding And Bruising
Chemotherapy can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any unexplained bruising or bleeding. You may have:
- blood in your urine or stools
- tiny red or purple spots on your skin that may look like a rash.
Some people may need a platelet transfusion. This is given by drip . The platelets will start working immediately to prevent bruising and bleeding.
Here are some tips for avoiding injury:
- Wear protective gloves when doing work around the house or in the garden.
- Be careful to avoid bumping into things or tripping.
- Use a soft toothbrush to protect your gums from bleeding and do not floss.
Your doctor or specialist nurse will tell you if the chemotherapy is likely to cause hair loss. Knowing what to expect gives you time to prepare and find ways of coping.
The digestive system is made up of the stomach and bowels. Chemotherapy can affect the digestive system in different ways.
You may need to go to hospital to have fluids through a drip.
You may get a bitter or metal taste in your mouth. Sucking sugar-free sweets may help with this. Some foods may taste different or have no taste. Try different foods to find out what tastes best to you. Taste changes usually get better after treatment finishes. Your nurse can give you more advice.
Practical Hints For Menopausal Symptoms
- If you have breast cancer, we DON’T recommend hormone replacement therapy.
- Eat soy products or take vitamin E to reduce hot flashes.
- Your doctor may recommend prescription medications for hot flashes.
- Wear light cotton pajamas to help prevent overheating when sleeping.
- Use vaginal moisturizers on a regular basis or other water-based lubricants as needed, especially during and before sexual activity. These products will help with vaginal dryness and irritation.
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Chemo Can Help Even If It Doesn’t Get Rid Of Your Tumor
Chemotherapy works by killing cancer cells, so you might assume that the goal is always to eliminate a tumor. But doctors sometimes use chemo for other reasons, such as to:
- Kill hidden cancer cells in your body after you already had surgery to remove a tumor
- Shrink a tumor before you get other treatments, like surgery or radiation therapy
- Help relieve some cancer symptoms, even if a cure isn’t likely
Practical Hints For Constipation
- To help prevent constipation, drink eight to 10 glasses of fluid a day.
- Take a stool softener such as ducosate sodium, also known as Colace, one tablet once or twice a day. Senekot or Senekot-S also may be suggested. Ask your doctor or nurse for a recommendation.
- Stay as active as you can. Consistent regular exercise can reduce constipation.
- If you can tolerate them, try high-fiber foods such as prunes, bran, fruits and vegetables.
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How Early Can You Get Blood Work Done For Chemo
First, you may be told to show up a couple of hours early to get blood work drawn. This is to make sure youre able to get your chemotherapy treatment.#N#It can be a pain, but, believe me, its in your best interest.#N#Use the extra time to relax before you go to your chemotherapy appointment.#N#When you arrive at the infusion floor and they have your lab results and a room available, youll be called back to have your vital signs taken.#N#Once you are cleared at the vitals station, you will be taken to your chemotherapy room for your infusion.#N#At MD Anderson, you will have a TV, Internet access, a bed or a recliner and best of all warm blankets.#N#They also have food service at lunch and dinner if youre hungry.#N#At MD Anderson, youre allowed to have one caregiver with you in the infusion room.
Why Does Chemo Make You Sick
Your body sees the medicine as foreign. It sets off warning signals in your brain and digestive system. This flips the on switch in a part of your brain called the vomiting center. It puts out chemicals that make you queasy. Chemo can harm your digestive tract, too, which could also lead to nausea.
Chemo can cause three different types of nausea and vomiting:
- Acute starts within a few hours of your treatment.
- Delayed wont kick in until 24 hours after treatment. It can last a few days
- Anticipatory starts before you get chemo, because you expect to feel sick.
Constant vomiting can take a toll. It can leave you weak, dry your body out, and steal nutrients it needs. You might also get an electrolyte imbalance, which means you dont have enough of things like sodium and potassium that make your systems run. If you feel very sick, you might have to lower your chemotherapy dose or stop the treatment entirely.
Some types of chemo are more likely than others to make you sick. It happens more often with the drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin .
You’re also more likely to have these problems if you:
- Get several chemotherapy treatments close together
- Take a high dose
- Get the drug through a vein instead of by mouth
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