There are many different breast cancer treatment options available. Your oncologist will work with you to create a customized treatment plan based on many factors (such as your age, overall health, size of the tumor, etc.). While these treatments are effective, most patients experience at least some side effects. Here we'll discuss some of the most common side effects based on the treatment type. You can also download our guide to take with you as a reference.
Surgery is one of the most common treatment options for breast cancer. The two types of surgery for breast cancer are lumpectomy (partial breast removal) and mastectomy (entire breast removal). As with any surgery, there is a period of downtime as your body recovers.
Swelling and pain may be addressed by taking prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. Your doctor may also suggest certain exercises to help with swelling and soreness.
It’s important to keep the bandages in place until your doctor removes them as they protect the wound, keep the area dry, and reduce your chances of infection or prolonged bleeding.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill breast cancer cells. The side effects depend on what type of radiation therapy you have (internal or external). Here are some common side effects from external radiation therapy.
Your doctor may recommend the following tips to help make the process more comfortable:
Chemotherapy is a breast cancer treatment given to you through your vein (intravenous) or pill form. It’s common for patients to be given a combination of medications during chemotherapy treatment. Some possible side effects include:
Short-term side effects may be reduced by taking a little extra care of yourself in the days before and after treatment. Your white blood count is lower after breast cancer treatment, which is why many of these short-term side effects happen.
Make plans to take off work or school in the days following your treatments so you may rest. You may also want to ask a family member or friend to help you for a few days while recovering from the treatments.
For long-term side effects, you may consider some additional planning. For instance, if you’re concerned about infertility, then you may want to make arrangements to freeze your eggs before you begin treatment. Your doctor will provide other information regarding managing heart damage or bone thinning.
If the tumor in your breast has hormone receptors, then hormone therapy treatment may be an effective breast cancer treatment for you. Side effects associated with hormone therapy include:
The side effects caused by hormone therapies can often be addressed with some of the following tips:
Immunotherapy for breast cancer involves the use of prescription medications that boost the immune system. Some forms of breast cancer will respond to immunotherapy by using your body’s immune system to slow or stop cancer growth.
For more cancer treatment tips and side effect management, you can visit our Cancer Treatment Tips page.