With the advent of a number of ways to treat breast cancer, the hopes of survival are rising among the women suffering from this disease, with many making a comeback to the mainstream of life. But the responses to the various treatments depend largely upon the general health of the individual and the stage of the breast cancer. All forms of treatment of breast cancer is followed by some side effects that too varying with each individual. So it is always important to consider the side effects in discussion with the doctor and plan to manage those effects before the start of the treatment.
Treatments and their side- effects
Surgery – Surgical operations on breasts may lead to the change in the body weight, especially with women having large breasts. This leads to discomfort in the neck, back and shoulders. Sometimes a feeling of numbness in the chest, arm and underarm can be felt due to the damage of the nerves caused by surgery.
Due to the removal of lymph nodes under the arm, the flow of the lymphatic fluid slows down resulting in the swelling in the side of the body where it is operated specially in the arm and hand. This can lead to infection and cause serious complications.
There may be some pain, soreness and tenderness in the site of incision.
Radiation therapy – Due to this therapy patients suffer from fatigue within few weeks of treatment or after the treatment. They are advised rest, but some activities are also required to study their energy levels.
The skin may become red, dry and develop itchy sensation. It may also turn moist with the progress of the treatment. Sometimes the changes are temporary and go away after the treatment is over. In some cases there may be permanent color change of the skin that can be treated by application of creams.
Changes in the breasts are observed like firmer breasts, bigger breasts due to build up of fluids and smaller sizes of breasts may due to the radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy – Some temporary and long term side effects are associated with chemotherapy. Fatigue and severe nausea and vomiting are some common side effects of chemotherapy. Other temporary side effects include hair loss, diarrhea, mouth sores, bruises and bleeding easily. These effects go away after the treatment is over.
Hormone therapy – Due to this therapy the women experience almost the same effects of menopause like weight gain, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, hot flushes and night sweat.
Biological therapy – This is done by the application of certain drugs that are able to destroy the cancerous cells. Women in advanced stage of breast cancer may feel fever and chill, weakness, pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, difficulty in breathing. These effects are less severe after the initial treatment.