03 FebChemotherapy, Radiation, and Biological Therapy
Other forms of therapy are used in fighting breast cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation, and biological therapies are used in treating breast cancer throughout the body. Chemotherapy is a combination of drugs that are given through an IV or by the pill. The medication is carried into the bloodstream and travels through the body to kill any stray breast cancer cells. The dosage amount and strength of the chemicals depending on their effect on the rapidly dividing cancer cells. Chemotherapy is usually given through an outpatient clinic, the doctor’s office, or in the home. Sometimes a patient receiving chemotherapy treatment may need to spend time in the hospital.
Side effects will depend on the dosage and drugs being used in the treatment. Chemotherapy affects the blood cells that are needed to carry oxygen to your body, fight infection, and help your blood to clot. If they are affected, you are more prone to infections, bruising, or excessive bleeding. Chemotherapy also damages hair cells and can cause hair to fall out during therapy. Your hair will grow back, but it may come in a different color and may have a different texture. Your stomach lining may also be affected by chemotherapy. It can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lip and mouth sores. Your doctor is the source of information to control any of these side effects. Anticancer drugs can cause numbness or tingle in the extremities but usually disappears after treatment is finished.
There are warnings that some chemotherapy drugs can cause heart problems, damage the ovaries, and bring on signs of early menopause. Infertility is also a danger to those who are having chemotherapy treatment. You can become pregnant while going through therapy, but the effects of the drugs on unborn children are not known. You should talk to your doctor about birth control before starting chemotherapy treatment.
Hormone treatments of progesterone and estrogen are used if you have a breast tumor that needs hormones to continue to grow. Hormone therapy may include a drug that blocks natural hormones and block the ovaries from making estrogen. Surgery may be needed to remove your ovaries if the patient has not gone through menopause.
Side effects are specific to the drug you receive during hormone therapy. Tamoxifen is one of the most common hormone therapy drugs used. The side effects of this drug are similar to menopausal symptoms and sometimes include vaginal dryness or discharge. Other effects can include irregular menstrual cycles, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Tamoxifen does not cause serious side effects in every patient. Although they are rare, there are a few serious side effects of Tamoxifen including blood clots and a slight increase in their risk of stroke.
Biological therapy is for women who can use their own immune system to fight their cancer cells. The immune system is our body’s natural defense against cancer and any disease. This therapy is used for women who have tumors with too much of a certain protein. By blocking this protein (HER2), it stops or slows the growth of the cancer cells.