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Five Things Friday: Conquering Side Effects

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Breast Cancer Woman Contemplating

Conquer common side effects of breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer is frightening. And the cure may be no picnic in the park either. Dealing with both the uncertainty of the disease and the effects of the treatment can certainly be overwhelming.

The goal must be to hit the cancer with something that can deliver a knockout punch. Chemotherapy, 

Breast Cancer is frightening

radiation, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy all can play a part in defeating breast cancer, but all of these treatments produce side effects that may be unpleasant, to say the least.

Here are five common side effects of breast cancer treatment and how to mitigate them:

1. Nausea and vomiting

Along with anti-nausea medications, you can take steps to limit this unpleasant and debilitating side effect. Medical marijuana may be helpful in easing symptoms, but please discuss it with your doctor before trying it.

Eat smaller meals spread out during the day. Avoid sugar, high-fat dairy

Marijuana Leaf

and meats, fried foods, foods with strong odors, and alcohol.

Eat smaller meals spread out during the day. Avoid sugar, high-fat dairy and meats, fried foods, foods with strong odors, and alcohol. Your health care team and Albie Aware can help you formulate a healthy diet, which could include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and certain types of fish. In other words, the diet most of us should be eating anyway.

2. Memory loss

Sometimes referred to as ‘chemo brain,’ memory loss can be associated with radiation and hormonal therapy treatments, as well as chemotherapy.

Memory loss from treatment is more than just forgetting where you left your keys. If you are experiencing memory issues to a significant degree, you can take some simple steps to help.

Make frequent notes and use a calendar — then be sure to check them daily or even several times a day. Do crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or other brain enhancing exercises. Most importantly, have someone accompany you to appointments to take notes and to remind you what your doctor said.

3. Fertility

The issue of infertility associated with breast cancer treatment is extremely complex. For young women, the possibility of being unable to give birth can be traumatic and must be discussed in detail with your doctor.

Woman with man breast cancer treatment

Depending on your prognosis and other factors, some options may include:

  • Banking fertilized eggs prior to treatment
  • Using eggs from a donor.
  • Delaying treatment, if your medical team deems it safe to do so, in order to facilitate in vitro fertilization.

There are a great many questions and possible solutions to the question of infertility and breast cancer. Each woman’s situation is unique and requires professional advice.

4. Fatigue

Fatigue is much more intense than just feeling tired. You may have trouble concentrating and comprehending, and you may lose interest easily. Naps can be helpful. Exercise definitely boosts energy levels. Yoga and meditation may also help. Ask your doctor if you may be suffering from anemia due to your treatment.

5. Infection

Breast cancer treatment can suppress a person’s immune system, increasing the possibility of infection. Some of the preventive steps to avoid this are the same as you would take to avoid the flu, coronavirus, or even a common cold.

Stay out of crowds while your immune system is compromised. Wash your hands frequently. Practice good daily hygiene. Avoid raw food. Skip manicures and pedicures – you don’t want a cut. Avoid public pools and hot tubs. Don’t share drinking glasses or anything that might spread germs.

Bonus side effect: Hair Loss

Hair loss is perhaps the most talked-about side effect of cancer treatment. Looking your best can go a long way to maintaining a positive attitude. Some women may even embrace the bald look. For others, wigs, hats, and scarves are essential accessories. Shop for wigs while you can still match your natural hair color. 

hair loss from breast cancer

Contact the Albie Aware office to get a referral to a hairstylist who has volunteered FREE haircuts to our clients undergoing treatment.

You may also lose your eyebrows. Fortunately, a technique called microblading can alleviate that concern. In Sacramento, Jasmine Orellana at Allure Permanent Cosmetics offers microblading free to breast cancer survivors through her “Pay with a Smile” program. “Little things are important when you’re going through the worst thing imaginable,” Jasmine says. “This provides them with just one less worry.”

Sources

WebMD

American Cancer Society

BREASTCANCER.ORG

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