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, but 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, women may experience an assortment of side effects, including:
Pain and numbness: The pain and numbness associated with breast cancer treatment is potentially linked to peripheral neuropathy, an umbrella term that refers to the many conditions which involve damage to the peripheral nervous system. 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 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: 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.
Absence of menstrual periods
Sexual difficulties: Breastcancer.org says a lack of sex drive, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse are some of the sexual difficulties that can arise during breast cancer treatment.
Chemo Brain: Concerns about memory loss and cognitive function after treatment.
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.
This story was written for the Think Pink advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.