Side Effect Management

There are several treatment options for breast cancer, depending on the cancer stage and the patient’s age and general health. Following are the most common reported side effects:

Radiation Therapy
Side effects depend on dose and include fatigue. Bras and other clothing may rub the treated area and cause soreness. Loose-fitting clothes and gentle skin care are important during this time.

Chemotherapy
Side effects depend on the specific drugs and the dose. Side effects for breast cancer patients include tingling or numbness, weakening of the heart, damage to the ovaries, menopausal symptoms and in some cases, infertility.

Hormone Therapy
The most common therapy is tamoxifen, which blocks estrogen. Side effects of hormones depend on the drug or treatment type. The side effects of tamoxifen can be similar to those of menopause, but not all women experience side effects from this drug. It can cause blood clots and uterine cancer, but these and other serious side effects are rare.

When the ovaries are surgically removed, menopause starts immediately. Side effects are often more severe than those of natural menopause.

Biological Therapy
Some women with breast cancer that has spread take a biological therapy called Herceptin. Side effects of Herceptin include fever, chills, pain, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, rashes or difficulty breathing. These side effects usually decrease after the first treatment.

Herceptin can also cause heart damage and serious breathing problems. Before administering this therapy, a doctor will check the patient’s heart and lungs and watch them for signs of problems during treatment.

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