Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Effects Of Breast Cancer Treatments

Women who are breast cancer survivors are at risk for two kinds of side effects from treatments: long term effects which begin and persists after it is completed and late effects which arise months or even years after treatment has ended. Here are the most common long-term effects experienced by the cancer survivors.

1.) Fatigue – 30 percent of cancer survivors are fatigued for five years or more after successful treatment. Any number of physical factors, including anemia and inflammation resulting from radiation or chemotherapy and loss of muscle mass, can account for fatigue during and after treatment.

2.) Weight gain – Women undergoing breast cancer chemotherapy gain an average of five to eight pounds, and the excess pounds are all fat rather than a combination of fat and lean tissue.

3.)Nerve damage – Surgery can damage nerves in the treated breast and chest, resulting in numbness or pain. Chemotherapy can also affect the peripheral nerves, particularly in the hands or feet.

Here are some of the more common late effects:

1.) Lymphedema – Up to 25 percent of breast cancer survivors experience some degree of arm swelling following the removal of underarm lymph nodes, which is essential in evaluating the extent of the disease. Lymph node excision can damage the lymphatic drainage system, causing fluid to build up in the arm on the affected side. Lymphedema can appear weeks or months after surgery and is exacerbated if the arm is injured or infected.

2.) Osteoporosis – Women who undergo menopause following chemotherapy have a higher rate of bone loss than women who have a natural menopause. Aromatase inhibitors block the production of estrogen in fat and other tissues.

3.) Menopause – After breast cancer treatment, many women take tamoxifen, a selective estrogen blocker for five years to prevent recurrence. One positive side of tamoxifen increases bone density and decreases cholesterol levels but it also produces menopause symptoms like hot flashes and dryness.

4.) Subsequent cancer – Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast. Also some treatments increase the probability of developing certain forms of cancer, although the risk is low.

5.) Lung damage – Lung tissue can be damaged if the radiation to the chest cavity reaches the lung. In about one percent of survivors, it leads to radiation pneumonitis, an inflammation condition that usually occurs two to three months after treatment.

6.) Congestive heart failure – Cardiac damage is increasingly becoming rare as chemotherapy doses decline, but women who received high doses of doxorubin may sustain damage to the heart muscle.



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