Having radiotherapy for breast cancer – Part Three: Side Effects and Support

Having radiotherapy for breast cancer – Part Three: Side Effects and Support


during your radiotherapy treatment there
are nurses in the department or treatment review radiographers we will
see you towards the end of treatment to discuss side-effects and what happens
next skin in the treatment area may become
more red the skin can get dry can get itchy the skin can break split peel or
blister after treatments finished people often find that they do get tired during
treatment so you may experience that you do get very tired during treatment and
for a good couple of weeks after treatment sometimes this can go on for
many months after treatment it varies from person to person it’s good to drink
plenty of fluids to eat a sensible diet because they all help with feelings of
fatigue and energy levels it’s good to exercise or have some activity because
research shows that activities such as walking can make the feelings of fatigue
or tiredness better your breasts can feel uncomfortable when you’re going
through treatment as it can become inflamed and irritated by the treatment
and so we recommend that you take painkillers if you need to and you can
wear a soft supportive bra Society fits ready to therapy very much like sunburn
but without the lovely holiday so you you moisturize daily I moisturize twice
a day and you make sure that you’ve kind of rubbed all the moisturizer in each
time as well and that would just help to prevent the burning that occurs as part
of the process it’s literally just where the where the radiotherapy has zapped
and it was it was it was literally the size of my collarbone so it wasn’t it
wasn’t very big at all really and to be honest I noticed it more than anyone
else did in terms of other side effects yes there’s that element of tiredness
but again I believe that’s more because you’re coming and doing this every
single day so it’s becoming another something you’ve got sort into your life
and it’s kind of it’s it’s a fatigue tiredness but it’s nothing that that
asleep or an early night can’t can’t get rid of the one thing that I did find is
that towards the end of the four weeks I preferred to not wear my bra because I
was aware that it was going to aggravate the skin a little bit more so if you can
perhaps factor that in and it also made it easier getting on and off the
undressing for the radiotherapy as well so yeah I ditched the bra for about
weeks you may experience some sharp shooting pains within your breasts this
is usually due to where the surgeons have cut through the nerves and it takes
net time for the nerves to reconnect and heal so it’s all part of the healing
process it’s not the radiotherapy doing any harm to your breast tissue it is the
normal healing process of from the surgery you can experience some niggles
and the odd occasional twinge for me personally I I thought that meant that
the treatment was doing what it needed to do so it was it was necessary it was
vital and it certainly wasn’t anything that would cause you to not do anything
and I believe you could take paracetamol throughout radiotherapy if you need to
as well so yeah it was it was all manageable completely the real concern
for me as an oncologist and for my patients is will this treatment have
caused long-term harm doing the treatment in the way we do with multiple
small treatments over a few weeks is a way that we are very confident keeps the
risk of long term harm to a minimum and in any situation where I’m recommending
treatment to somebody I’m thinking about your for you what’s the risk from the
cancer you’ve had now and over the next few years and trying to make sure I
treat you as best I can whilst keeping the risk of any problems
10 20 years hence as low as possible a long term side effects are uncommon but
unfortunately if you guess a long term side effects it could be with you for
the rest of your life which is why it’s really important to know about it some
of the most common of those side effects are a change in the shape or feeling of
the breast so the breast may be a little bit bigger or a bit smaller may feel a
bit firmer than before and there can also be some skin changes so sometimes
the skin will look a bit darker or a bit lighter it’s also possible to get some
lung changes because the lung sits right behind the breast and so a little bit of
it is going to catch the radiotherapy so some women just a few will in the future
have a bit of shortness of breath or maybe a dry cough following the
radiotherapy for the left-sided treatments that the heart may get a bit
of the radiation dose which means that the risk of heart problems in the future
may be slightly higher price discolored a couple of weeks after radiotherapy and
it looks slightly different to the other one but now I’m three four months on and
everything’s pretty much back to how it was before before the treatment started
there can be some tightening of the muscles over the chest wall which means
that the overall range of movements at the shoulder may be a little bit more
restricted it can range between five to about 20 per hundred patients but it
really depends on the extent of radiotherapy that you’ve had whether
you’ve had the lymph node area is treated or just the breast the exercises
that you’re given to do post surgery are extremely important no matter how tired
you feel I thoroughly recommend that you get up and you do them and then you can
monitor your progress I personally don’t have any difference at all in my arm
movements not even a few centimetres I can reach the same on both sides because
I was quite vigilant with the exercises the only serious long-term complications
are related to the risk of cancer developing as a result of the
radiotherapy itself this is a small risk it’s about one person for every hundred
over the course of a lifetime radiotherapy can be a difficult time
emotionally for you it comes at the end of months of treatments and you’re often
going through the side effects still and it can be a time when you look back on
all that’s happened and think about what’s going to come next
so we can offer support for you during radiotherapy with time to talk about
thoughts and feelings and it’s often a conversation that is enough to help work
through those worries and concerns and we can offer suggestions for practical
solutions or lifestyle changes that can help we can also suggest that you visit
is to get further advice and support it’s a place to meet other people that
are going through similar things they have classes which can help people such
as relaxation and visualization if needed there is a counseling service
offered at Maggie’s and there’s also one within the oncology service as well and
they can provide you with that specific support that you might need we have
contact details for many support groups in the region and that we can give to
you as you need them the staff here are fantastic and every day they will ask
you how you’re feeling and really ask you how you’re feeling rather than
they’re just hi how are you so if you’ve got any worries or any concerns no
matter how big or small then you know that you can voice them at any point
through the daily process all the way along you are you’re led by the hand if
you need it do you think that the last day you’re going to be running out and
skipping down the corridor but actually there’s there’s there’s more of a sense
of peace at the end of it and now what happens to me you know where do I go
from here so I think that radiotherapy doesn’t just mark the end of the
treatment it marks the beginning of you kind of coming to terms with what’s
happened you

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