While chemotherapy may be successful in destroying cancerous cells, one should be prepared for complications of breast cancer treatment such as:
- Degenerative joints
- Heart damage
- Increased susceptibility of infection due to low blood white blood cell counts
Also referred to as radiation therapy, radiotherapy uses a specialized high-energy beam to target cancerous cells. This beam is able to damage a cell’s DNA, thus stopping its ability to multiply. This effectively reduces the growth of cancer cells.
The complications of breast cancer treatments such as radiotherapy include the following. It may cause
- Skin discoloration and burns
- Heart damage and disease, especially on left-sided breast tumors
- Secondary cancers of the skin, bone and soft tissues
This treatment reduces the amount of the hormone, estrogen, in the body and blocks it from triggering hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells in the breast. Hormone therapy is used to shrink these cancer cells or slow their growth. This approach is only effective in cells that are hormone-receptor-positive for breast cancer. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries in premenopausal women and fat tissues in post-menopausal women.
As hormone therapy affects the levels of estrogen in the body, it may cause the following
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal irritation
With every cure, one must be ready to accept the possible complications of breast cancer treatment.
Breast cancer treatment can prolong the lives of patients and help them overcome breast cancer successfully. However, no matter what the treatment is, side effects and complications can happen anytime. In these situations, patients should consult a doctor and take the necessary measures to minimize the risk of developing more serious problems.
Planning Your Treatment
When planning to undergo treatment, consult your doctor, and understand the advantages, risks, and possible complications of breast cancer treatment. It is best to do additional research on your own and to take note of the questions you can ask your doctor on your next appointment.
Treatment plans will vary from case to case, as it depends on the type of cancer, stage, and severity of your medical condition.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What are my options?
- Why is this the best treatment plan for me?
- Can you explain the different phases/ steps of this treatment plan?
- If I undergo this treatment, what are the risks?
- What are some of the side effects and possible complications of breast cancer treatment?
- Will my survival rate go up if I go through with this treatment instead of another?
- What is the risk of recurrence?
- How will this treatment affect my long-term goals? Will it lengthen or improve my quality of life?
As you put together your list, you may also want to take the time to re-evaluate some of your life plans and priorities. Share these with your doctors. These may include wanting to start a family of your own in the future, opting for breast reconstruction surgery, etc. Your doctor can take note of these and consider these when putting together the best treatment plan for you.