Stand Up To Cancer on Breast Cancer Treatments and What to Expect
As we continue to raise awareness for breast cancer this month, we’re sharing information on the various treatments for the disease and what to expect. We spoke to Stand Up To Cancer who delved into this topic and shared what types of treatments are available for breast cancer patients, how soon you should start treatment after diagnosis, and more.
For cancer treatments in general, what are some of the types of treatment available? Does this vary based on the size of the tumor/ stage of cancer?
Surgery and radiation treat or remove your tumor without broadly affecting the rest of the body. Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery to remove the tumor.
Depending on how advanced your cancer is, you may need additional treatment before and/or after surgery. Post-surgery treatment may include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted or precision therapy and immunotherapy which reach throughout your body. These treatments may be important, because once cancer cells have spread beyond your breast tumor, they can spread anywhere in your body.
Your cancer care providers will develop a treatment plan based on the type and sub-type of your breast cancer, its stage and any other special considerations such as the presence of specific genetic mutations and your general health and personal preferences.
And remember clinical trials for new treatments may present a good option, giving you access to the latest cutting-edge treatments being developed. Stand Up To Cancer offers a free and confidential clinical trial finder service (in both English and Spanish). You can call a toll- free number and speak to a coordinator, or you can fill out the on-line form. Visit StandUpToCancer.org/ClinicalTrials for information about clinical trials. There are short, easy to watch videos that explain the clinical trial process (also in English and Spanish). The clinical trial finder information is located at the bottom of that web page. If you are interested in a clinical trial, talk with your doctor. SU2C provides a list of questions you can print out and bring with you to your appointment.
What are the side effects of some of these treatments?
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause similar side effects because both of these approaches can affect healthy cells while destroying breast cancer cells. Side effects can include:
· Loss of appetite
· Nausea and vomiting
· Weakness and fatigue
· Mouth sores
· Hair loss
· Weight gain
· Early menopause
· Higher risk of infections
Like all surgeries, breast cancer surgery carries some risk for infection. If your surgery involves removal of lymph nodes under the arm, you may experience a buildup of fluid called lymphedema.
We know that sometimes certain products are not suggested for use during chemotherapy treatments, such as gel nail polishes, can you help explain why these types of products might not be safe for those going through treatment?
Chemotherapy drugs sometimes cause mild, temporary changes in nails and nail beds such as brittleness, grooving, discoloration, sensitivity, and lifting of the nail bed. You may find it helpful to keep your nails short.
· Wear gloves while washing dishes or doing other chores. Excessive exposure to water can lead to fungal infections of the nail bed.
· You can wear nail polish to help keep nails strong and protected from the environment. Clear nail polish can also be helpful for men. Because very dry nails can become weaker or more brittle during cancer treatment, use an oily remover to take off polish. Avoid removers that contain acetone, ethyl acetate, or other harsh solvents.
· If you're undergoing chemotherapy, avoid artificial nails or wraps because bacteria can get trapped and cause infection. Be sure to alert your doctor to any signs of inflammation or infection. Consider bringing your own instruments to your nail salon to avoid any possible infections from other patrons, even in the cleanest of salons.
How quickly should someone start treatment after diagnosis of breast cancer typically?
It’s typically recommended to have surgery within a few weeks of diagnosis and ideally, chemotherapy within a month, but it depends on factors including the stage of the cancer, the tumor subtype, and yourone’s other health considerations. In addition, there are some very good reasons why you may wish to explore additional information before you begin treatment.
· Take time to learn about your diagnosis and choose the best surgeon or oncologist, someone with experience and success in treating your type of breast cancer. You can also take time to get a second opinion.
· Take time to learn about your surgical options. There are choices to make, not just between a lumpectomy and mastectomy. If you have a mastectomy, will you want immediate or delayed reconstruction? Newer procedures such as nipple or skin-sparing mastectomies may be an option you want to consider, but not all surgeons do these procedures.
· If you are a young woman with breast cancer, take time to see a fertility specialist to talk about fertility preservation. Chemotherapy often leads to infertility, but there are measures you can take beforehand if you wish to have a child in the future.
· If radiation or chemotherapy are also part of your treatment plan, it’s optimal to start these additional treatments as soon as you are healed from surgery to reduce the risk that the cancer might spread.
We collaborated with our friends at Stand Up To Cancer to derive this informational and educational-based content. The content on this site does not constitute medical advice. You should consult your doctor before beginning any treatment, exercise, training, or athletic program.
Stand Up To Cancer’s (SU2C) mission is to raise funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. By galvanizing the entertainment industry, SU2C has set out to generate awareness, educate the public on cancer prevention, and help more people diagnosed with cancer become long-term survivors.
We're celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness month with some of our favorite pink shades.