October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today, about 1 of 8 women in the United States is unfortunately expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Throughout October, members of the Rochester Regional Health Breast Care team will provide information in our monthly Q&A series to help you take a few important steps that can significantly improve your odds of enjoying a lifetime of good health.
Robin Reid, MD
Rochester Regional Health
Q: Is chemotherapy painful and what are the side effects?
A: Typically, the drugs given for Chemotherapy drugs are given into a vein (IV), either as an injection over a few minutes or as an infusion over a longer period of time. Chemo is given in cycles. Which means, each period of treatment is followed by a rest period. This gives the body time to recover from the effects of the drugs. Most often, cycles last 2 or 3 weeks long with chemo beginning on the first day of each cycle. The schedule may vary depending on the drugs that are used. Depending on how well it is working and what side effects you have, treatment may be longer for advanced stages of breast cancer.
Research has shown that giving the cycles of certain chemo drugs closer together can lower the chance that the cancer will come back and improve survival for some women. For example, a drug that would normally be given every 3 weeks might be given every 2 weeks.Some of the side effects may include hair loss and nail changes, mouth sores, loss of, or increase of, appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, diarrhea, and increased rate of infections. Side effects differ depending on the chemotherapy chosen for that type and stage of cancer. However, it is important to realize that side effects usually go away after treatment is finished. Tell your breast cancer team if you have any side effects, as there may be ways to lessen them.
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