Managing Breast Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer, there are many treatment options available to you such as surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Because these treatments are strong enough to fight off and kill cancerous cells, they will likely cause different side effects throughout the body. These side effects may last for the duration of treatment or years after you’ve stopped. Continue reading for some of the most common side of effects of Breast Cancer treatment and how to manage them.
Chemo and radiation therapies are well known to cause hair thinning or loss. This can be an emotional chapter of your breast cancer journey as many women associate their hair as part of their identity. While it is a discouraging side effect of breast cancer treatment, there are many ways to prepare and get through it. Consider cutting or shaving your hair before you begin to notice major signs of hair loss. It is easier to hide bald or thinning spots with shorter hairstyles and the transition will be less shocking. Utilize your fashion sense to express yourself through a head covering of your choice. There are plenty of styles of wigs, hats, and scarves that will complete your outfit and make you feel stylish and confident. Some insurance plans may even provide coverage for wigs, given a doctor’s prescription. Note that if you do leave the house with an exposed scalp, you will need to wear sunscreen to protect it while you’re outside at all times.
Breast Cancer and its subsequent treatments can cause mild to severe pain in different parts of the body, such as your back, bones, chest, and joints. Keep a pain diary to track the details of the severity, location, and duration of your pain, so you can talk with your medical team when the time comes. As a group, you can create an effective plan for short or long-term pain management. This may include over-the-counter medications, pain prescriptions, or alternative medicine such as acupuncture, physical therapy, massage and/or meditation.
Up to 1 in 4 cancer patients experience depression at some point of their battle with the disease. The emotional distress of a breast cancer diagnosis, paired with the pain and fatigue of treatment may exacerbate the symptoms of depression in women. Patients may notice it is harder to focus or remember things, a symptom known as brain fog. It is important to try to complete one action at a time and maintain a daily routine. Do not feel discouraged if activities begin to take you longer than normal, your body is fighting, remember to be kind to it and yourself during this time. If you’ve been feeling down for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They may feel it is necessary to prescribe you with antidepressants and refer you to a therapist if your condition has progressed. Other steps you can take to combat depression are staying connected with close family and friends, joining a cancer support group, or exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, be sure to share them with your doctor. Side effects are not life sentences, and there are many medications and therapies available to ease your discomfort.