Health Matters Fall 2022 | Page 14

Side effects that may arise during breast cancer treatment

Navigating cancer treatment is a challenge unlike any other . Medical professionals often advise cancer patients to lean on their support systems during treatment , and heeding that advice can make it easier to manage the ups and downs that can arise when being treated for cancer .
In addition to building a strong and trustworthy support system , individuals diagnosed with breast cancer can study up on what to expect during treatment . Side effects of treatment may differ depending on the treatment plan devised by women ’ s cancer care teams . Such plans are not uniform , and the National Breast Cancer Foundation , Inc .® notes that treatments often include a combination of therapies , including chemotherapy and radiation . In addition , no two women are the same , so they may respond differently to similar treatment plans than others have in the past . Despite the differences between treatment plans and patients , Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that women may experience an assortment of side effects , including :
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Pain and numbness : The pain and numbness associated with breast cancer treatment is potentially linked to peripheral neuropathy , an umbrella term that the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says refers to the many conditions that involve damage to the peripheral nervous system . The NINDS notes that this connection is due to certain chemotherapy drugs and not all patients will develop the pain and numbness associated with peripheral neuropathy .
• Dental issues : Among the potential dental issues that can arise during breast cancer treatment are mucositis ( severe inflammation of the mouth ), an increased risk for oral infections , difficulty swallowing , and pain that feels like a significant toothache , among others .
• Lymphedema : Lymphedema is swelling in an arm or leg that the Mayo Clinic notes can be caused by cancer treatments that remove or damage the lymph nodes .
• Musculoskeletal symptoms : Issues such as myalgia and muscle stiffness have been reported in a high percentage of patients who underwent aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer .
• Bone loss and osteoporosis
• Heart problems : Breastcancer . org indicates that various types of treatment , including chemotherapy and targeted therapies , have been found to affect the heart , blood vessels and immune system , potentially increasing the risk for heart attack , stroke and heart failure .
• New cancers
• Cataracts
• Blood clots
• Absence of menstrual periods
• Menopausal symptoms
• Sexual difficulties : WebMD notes that a lack of sex drive , vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse are some of the sexual difficulties that can arise during breast cancer treatment .
• Infertility
• Concerns about memory loss and cognitive function , which is sometimes referred to as “ chemo brain ”
Side effects vary during breast cancer treatment . Some women may not experience anything more than minor issues during treatment . But women are urged to discuss side effects with their cancer care teams and seek guidance about how to alleviate or overcome any symptoms that adversely affect their quality of life .
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