Complications of Breast Cancer Treatment | Blog By Dr. Monica Agarwal, Paras Bliss, Panchkula Complications of Breast Cancer Treatment | Blog By Dr. Monica Agarwal, Paras Bliss, Panchkula
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Breast Cancer Treatment Complications

Breast Cancer Treatment Complications

by: Dr. Monica Agarwal
Sr. Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology - Paras Bliss, Panchkula

The main treatment modalities of cancer breast are chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy and surgery in various combinations according to the stage of the disease. We can divide complications into short term and long term and specific to each treatment modality.

Chemotherapy

In addition to destroying cancer cells it also destroys normal cells as well causing

  • Anorexia- loss of appetite. Makes you eat very less and hence nutrition suffers. Eat small frequent meals and include nutritional shakes in between. Light exercise like walking can improve your appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting- Very troublesome with chemotherapy and radiation. Try having small frequent, nonoily and spicy bland food. There are a lot of medications to ease out nausea and vomiting. Try them. Don’t avoid medicine.
  • Weakness and fatigue- Get enough rest. Sleep for 8-10 hours and rest during the day. Keep exercising lightly, get help, eat healthy food, meditate, don’t miss your iron and multivitamin.
  • Hair loss – Can occur during treatment. Use wigs or stylish scarfs. It is usually temporary and hair will grow back eventually.
  • Mouth ulcer- Eat soft food nonspicy, nonoily, eat in small portions. Avoid irritating food.
  • Low immunity- WBC s are lowered with treatment. Stay indoors, away from crowded places, away from sick people and children. You can be given antibiotics, flu shot or G-CSF if needed.
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bleeding
  • Memory loss- This is temporary also called as chemo-fog.

Radiation

Can cause skin burns, irritation or discoloration. Severe fatigue and lymphedema in the long run.

Hormone therapy

This lowers your estrogen level causing

  • Vaginal dryness and irritation
  • Osteoporosis
  • Increased chances of blood clots
  • Endometrial cancers

Mastectomy

Surgical removal of part or all of breast tissue. This is the mainstay of treatment. Complications areas with all types of surgeries like

  • Swelling
  • Hematoma
  • Scar formation
  • Wound infection
  • Bleeding
  • Anaesthesia complications
  • Pins and needles sensation or pain at the surgical site
  • Lymphedema- This is a long-term complication due to the removal of lymph nodes from the armpit. Swelling of the arm occurs. Can cause pain, pressure and secondary infection. Can be managed by skin care, arm exercises, and compression bandages.
  • Cosmetic problems

Psychological

  • Depression
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Sadness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sexuality and intimacy issues

Losing a breast can be very distressing to any women and causes a lot of distress. The whole family is disturbed because of the complications and long-term effect on the women. It needs a lot of counseling, family support, and support groups. Sharing things with similar people can help. You should consider a reconstructive surgery or a prosthesis to tide over the social issues and also for your own confidence to face the world with a new perspective.

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