Why Do I Feel Fatigued
During radiation therapy, the body uses a lot of energy healing itself. Stress related to your illness, daily trips for treatment, and the effects of radiation on normal cells all may contribute to fatigue. Most people begin to feel tired after a few weeks of radiation therapy. Feelings of weakness or weariness will go away gradually after your treatment is finished, says Dr. Wilson.
You can help yourself during radiation therapy by not trying to do too much. If you feel tired, limit your activities and use your leisure time in a restful way. Do not feel that you have to do all the things you normally do. Try to get more sleep at night, and rest during the day if you can.
If you have been working a full-time job, you may want to continue. Although treatment visits are time consuming, you can ask your doctor’s office or the radiation therapy department to help by scheduling treatments with your workday in mind.
Some patients prefer to take a few weeks off from work while they’re receiving radiation therapy others work a reduced number of hours. You may want to have a frank conversation with your employer about your needs and wishes during this time. You may be able to agree on a part-time schedule, or perhaps you can do some work at home.
What Is Radiation Recall
Radiation recall is a rash that looks like a severe sunburn. It is rare but it can happen when certain types of chemotherapy are given during or soon after external-beam radiation therapy.
The rash appears on the part of the body that received radiation therapy. Symptoms may include redness, tenderness, swelling, wet sores, and peeling skin.
Typically, these effects start within days or weeks of starting radiation therapy. But they can also appear months or years later. Doctors treat radiation recall with medications called corticosteroids. Rarely, it may be necessary to wait until the skin heals to continue with chemotherapy.
How Fertility Might Be Affected
For women: Talk to your cancer care team about how radiation might affect your fertility . Its best to do this before starting treatment so you are aware of possible risks to your fertility.
Depending on the radiation dose, women getting radiation therapy in the pelvic area sometimes stop having menstrual periods and have other symptoms of menopause. Report these symptoms to your cancer care and ask them how to relieve these side effects.Sometimes menstrual periods will return when radiation therapy is over, but sometimes they do not.
See Fertility and Women With Cancer to learn more.
For men: Radiation therapy to an area that includes the testicles can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. If you want to father a child in the future and are concerned about reduced fertility, talk to your cancer care team before starting treatment. One option may be to bank your sperm ahead of time.
See Fertility and Men With Cancer to learn more.
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Radioprotective Drugs For Reducing Side Effects
One way to reduce side effects is by using radioprotective drugs, but these are only used for certain types of radiation given to certain parts of the body. These drugs are given before radiation treatment to protect certain normal tissues in the treatment area. The one most commonly used today is amifostine. This drug may be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce the mouth problems caused by radiation therapy.
Not all doctors agree on how these drugs should be used in radiation therapy. These drugs have their own side effects, too, so be sure you understand what to look for.
Changes To The Reconstructed Breast
If you have a breast reconstruction using an implant, radiotherapy can cause the reconstructed breast to become firmer, change shape or become uncomfortable. You may hear this called capsular contracture.
If you have a breast reconstruction using your own tissue , radiotherapy can cause the tissue of the reconstruction to change shape or shrink.
If you notice changes to your reconstructed breast talk to your breast surgeon or breast care nurse.
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How Long Do The Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer Last
The duration of side effects of radiotherapy for breast cancer varies slightly depending on the side effects. For example, acute radiation dermatitis can be fully recovered within 1 month after the end of radiotherapy radiation pharyngitis can be recovered within 1 month after the end of radiotherapy some patients can even recover within 1-2 weeks after the cessation of radiotherapy. Radiation pneumonia usually starts to appear within 1-6 months after the end of radiotherapy, and the duration, varies. However, the percentage of radiation pneumonia, especially symptomatic radiation pneumonia, in breast cancer radiotherapy is generally not very high, probably less than 5%.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy is often used to treat breast cancer after surgery. The doses of radiation used to destroy cancer cells can also hurt normal cells. The damage to these normal cells is the cause of the common side effects of radiation treatment. The possible side effects of radiation therapy are directly related to the area of the body being treated. Side effects are caused by the cumulative effect of radiation on the cells, which is why most patients do not experience any side effects until a few weeks into their treatments. While side effects may be unpleasant, there are treatments to help deal with them. Most side effects are temporary, disappearing slowly over time after therapy is complete.
Most radiation oncologists see their patients at least once a week while the patient is receiving treatment. This visit with the healthcare team is a chance for the patient to ask questions, discuss any side effects, and find ways to help relieve side effects. However, you can report concerning symptoms anytime to the treatment team.
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Heart And Lung Problems
Because of the location of your heart and lungs in relation to your breasts, radiation has the potential to cause heart and lung problems down the road though this is far less common than the other side effects weve covered, as radiation has improved significantly over the years.
Radiation can harm your heart by causing your arteries to harden or your heartbeat to become irregular, or it can inflict valve damage.
If your lungs are affected, this can present as chest pain, shortness of breath, or a cough or you may show no symptoms at all and the lung inflammation may only be caught on an x-ray. Symptoms typically dissipate on their own, but sometimes patients are given medications to ease the inflammation. If left untreated, the inflammation can turn ugly and cause pulmonary fibrosis, which is a permanent scarring of the lungs that can affect breath capacity.
However, todays techniques have advanced to the point where the heart and lungs are typically not affected by radiation treatment.
Association Of Antihormonal Therapy With Long
Compared to patients who did not receive endocrine therapy, those who used antihormonal drugs more often reported hot flashes and vaginal dryness , while hair loss was less common . Dry eyes and visual disturbances were experienced by roughly one-third of patients taking these drugs.
Among the subclasses of antihormonal drugs, aromatase inhibitors were associated with a relatively high prevalence of joint pain, whereas loss of libido was prevalent with gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogs .
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Pain And Skin Changes
During and just after treatment, your treated breast may be sore. Talk with your health care provider about using mild pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen to ease breast tenderness.
The treated breast may also be rough to the touch, red , swollen and itchy. Sometimes the skin may peel, as if sunburned. Your health care provider may suggest special creams to ease this discomfort.
Sometimes the skin peels further and the area becomes tender and sensitive. Its most common in the skin folds and the underside of the breast. If this occurs, let your radiation team know. They can give you creams and pads to make the area more comfortable until it heals.
Fatigue is common during radiation therapy and may last for several weeks after treatment ends.
Fatigue is mainly a short-term problem, but for some, it can persist .
You may feel like you dont have any energy and may feel tired all of the time. Resting may not help.
Regular exercise, even just walking for 20 minutes every day, may help reduce fatigue . Getting a good nights sleep is also important.
Talk with your health care provider if you are fatigued or have insomnia .
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What Are Your Breast Cancer Treatment Options
Many patients are finding new sources of information and working to educate themselves when they have a serious illness like cancer. If you have read about an option and want to know more, be sure to ask. Your doctor will be able to explain the criteria for certain treatments and why they may or may not be a suitable option for your individual diagnosis For more information about our Breast Care Center or treatment options, please visit our website.
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Side Effects Of Adjuvant Cancer Therapy
Depending on what form of treatment is used, adjuvant therapy can have side effects, like all therapy for neoplasms. Chemotherapy frequently causes vomiting, nausea, alopecia, mucositis, myelosuppression particularly neutropenia, sometimes resulting in . Some chemotherapeutic agents can cause acute myeloid leukaemia, in particular the alkylating agents. Rarely, this risk may outweigh the risk of recurrence of the primary tumor. Depending on the agents used, side effects such as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, leukoencephalopathy, bladder damage, constipation or diarrhea, hemorrhage, or post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment. Radiotherapy causes radiation dermatitis and fatigue, and, depending on the area being irradiated, may have other side effects. For instance, radiotherapy to the brain can cause memory loss, headache, alopecia, and radiation necrosis of the brain. If the abdomen or spine is irradiated, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dysphagia can occur. If the pelvis is irradiated, prostatitis, proctitis, dysuria, metritis, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can occur. Adjuvant hormonal therapy for prostate cancer may cause cardiovascular disease, and other, possibly severe, side effects.
Late Effects After Radiation For Breast Cancer
The physical side effects of radiation treatment are directly related to the area of the body being treated. Any area in the treatment field has a risk of being damaged, causing side effects. As radiation techniques have improved over the years, the risk of late effects has decreased.
Radiation can lead to permanent changes in the skin.
- You may develop new scars or notice changes in the color or texture of your skin. Radiation can also change the color and texture of your hair or can cause permanent hair loss in the treated area.
- The soft tissue and muscles under the skin can develop scarring and/or shrinkage, which can lead to a loss of flexibility and movement or chronic swelling in this area.
- You may develop chronic or recurring ulcers of the skin in the area treated. Blood vessels of the skin may become dilated and more visible, although this is not harmful.
- If the skin feels tight or sore, you can apply vitamin E to the skin.
- Use fragrance and dye-free soaps and moisturizers in the area if your skin is sensitive after radiation.
After radiation, the skin in the treated area is more sensitive to sunlight. This sensitivity will last for your lifetime. Practice sun safety, use plenty of sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and keep skin in the treated area covered with clothing. Try to avoid being out in the sun between the hours of 10 am-4 pm when it is the strongest.
Damage to the Bones
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Easing Worries About Radiation Therapy
Its normal to worry about possible side effects of radiation therapy.
Talk with your health care provider about your concerns.
Your health care provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to radiation therapy .
Learn more about support groups.
What Types Of Radiation Treatments Are Recommended For Breast Cancer
There are two primary types of radiation used to treat breast cancer.
External beam radiation
This type of radiation is administered via a machine. A technician will carefully calibrate the device to target the area of the body affected by cancer. This could be the whole breast, the lymph nodes, the chest wall, or another location your oncologist may choose to target.
External beam radiation is the most common type of radiation used in the treatment of breast cancer. Many patients with breast cancer undergo external beam radiation after initial surgery to remove cancerous tissues. The radiation can help destroy any remaining cancer cells and prevent cancer from returning.
These treatments usually last between two and ten weeks.
Brachytherapy is also known as internal radiation. Instead of using a machine to deliver the radiation externally, the oncologist places a catheter directly into or near the tissue affected by cancer. Then, radiation pellets are inserted into the catheter, exposing the affected area to radiation for a short amount of time. The pellets are then removed while the catheter remains in place for the subsequent treatment.
Brachytherapy typically happens twice a day for five days, but the timeline can vary depending on your oncologist’s recommendations. Once the final treatment is complete, medical staff will remove the catheter.
How Radiation For Breast Cancer Works
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by destroying the genetic material that causes them to rapidly grow and divide. But Dr. Kim says this is a delicate balance, given that both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged in the process of this treatment. Even though normal cells can repair much of the damage caused by radiation, the goal is to destroy as few healthy cells and cause as little harm as possible.
Thankfully, breast cancer happens to be very sensitive to radiation, so not much is needed to control the disease or stop it in its tracks. Radiation is very effective at treating cancer cells, which typically divide quicker, whereas normal tissues are affected to a much lesser degree, says Dr. Mutter. So were able to give a relatively modest dose of radiation after surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Radiation Therapy And Risk Of A Second Cancer
In rare cases, radiation therapy to the breast can cause a second cancer.
The most common cancers linked to radiation therapy are sarcomas . For women who are long-term smokers, radiation therapy may also increase the risk of lung cancer .
The risk of a second cancer is small. If your radiation oncologist recommends radiation therapy, the benefits of radiation therapy outweigh this risk.
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Will My Appetite Be Affected
Many side effects can cause problems with eating and digesting food, but you always should try to eat enough to help damaged tissues rebuild themselves. Itâs very important not to lose weight during radiation therapy so that your body can heal. Try to eat small meals often and eat a variety of different foods. Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether your treatment calls for a special diet and a dietitian will have a lot of ideas to help you maintain your weight.
If you have pain when you chew and swallow, your doctor may advise you to use a powdered or liquid diet supplement. Many of these products, available at the drugstore without prescription, are made in a variety of flavors. They are tasty when used alone, or they can be combined with other foods, such as pureed fruit, or added to milkshakes. Some of the companies that make diet supplements have produced recipe booklets to help you increase your nutrient intake. Ask your dietitian or pharmacist for further information.
What side effects occur with radiation therapy to the head and neck area? Some people who are having radiation to the head and neck have redness and irritation in the mouth, a dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing, changes in taste or nausea. Try not to let these symptoms keep you from eating.