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Adverse effects after chemotherapy for breast cancer

For any kind of treatment for breast cancer is characterized by some or other side effects, but not every patient they appear, and to varying degrees. The unwanted effects Potential Basically the afterchemotherapy for breast cancer due to a cytostatic type, dose, mode of reception and general state of health of women.

Chemotherapy destroys abnormal cells, but it is harmful and healthy. Time of occurrence of side effects can be different: in the course of treatment, immediately after its completion, after a few days, weeks, months, and years after. The bulk of the unintended consequences goes, some last for a long time.

The patient is important to inform the team of doctors who worked with him, the appearance of any symptoms. Specialists determine severity and corrected if necessary treatment.

Bone marrow suppression

This state in which the amount of one or several main types of blood cells is reduced:

  • Reduced number of white blood cells (neutropenia), increases the risk of infection.
  • Inadequate platelet count (thrombocytopenia) increases the likelihood of bruising and bleeding.
  • Deficiency of red blood cells (anemia) leads to fatigue, paleness and malaise.

This side effect provoked by the influence of chemotherapy on red blood cells, which are formed in bone marrow. Often, Their amount Reaches a minimum level the after 7-14 days the after chemotherapy for breast cancer . Bone marrow suppression - one of the most common and serious side effects of treatment. When this occurs, the dose is adjusted or therapy temporarily stops.

Nausea and vomiting

Many cytotoxic drugs used in the treatment of this disease, nausea and vomiting. In most cases, these symptoms occur after taking the drug combination during the first few hours after the beginning of reception, and continuing for about 24 hours. Later they can resume after treatment and last for several days.


This side-effect is due to the impact of chemotherapy on the cells lining the digestive tract. The probability of its occurrence is influenced by many factors, including the type and dose of the cytostatic drug. It increases the severity of the symptom receiving drug combinations. Diarrhea develops soon after the start and may last up to two weeks after chemotherapy for breast cancer.


Many factors increase the risk of this side effect: a kind of drug; drugs to facilitate nausea and vomiting; reduction of fluid intake. As a rule, constipation occurs 3-7 days after initiation of therapy, the combination of the received cytostatic agents can cause this symptom.


Some women gain weight during chemotherapy. This is because they often eat small meals to relieve the feeling of mild nausea caused by some drugs. In addition, many patients experience a malaise, which in turn triggers overeating. Also, they can not exercise regularly during treatment. Together, all of which can cause weight gain after chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting, fatigue, or accumulation of toxic substances due to withering away malignant cells can cause loss of appetite. Certain cytotoxic drugs that can provoke a temporary change of taste and smell, which would make the products even less appetizing. Some patients completely lose interest in food, which leads to weight loss. Maintaining a healthy diet during and after chemotherapy for breast cancer is important because it helps to recover from treatment.

In most cases, this type of therapy leads to weight gain, not loss of appetite.

Pain in the oral cavity

Stomatitis or oral mucositis occurs due to chemotherapy effects on cells of the oral cavity. Many active cytostatics provoke side effects, often with higher doses of drugs. He appears for about a week (5-14 days) after the start of treatment. Often itself takes place a few weeks after chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Also there may be painful oral ulcers, infections. Careful, regular maintenance will help prevent pain and reduce the risk of infection. A team of doctors who work with patients, giving clear instructions. To facilitate the pain analgesics and special oral solutions.

The red color of urine

Some cytotoxic drugs stained urine red for 1-2 days after the start of chemotherapy. It's not blood, it is a normal side effect of drugs.

Hair loss

Hair loss (alopecia) is a common adverse effect of the use of many, but not all chemotherapy drugs used to treat this disease.

  • AC- combination of doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Procytox) - almost always leads to hair loss.
  • Combination CMF - cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU) causes hair thinning.

Hair follicles are sensitive to chemotherapy, because they are fast-growing cells to injury being treated. The extent and duration of the deposition is unpredictable, it depends on the type and dose of drugs used, as well as personal factors of the patient. Hair loss can occur on all parts of the body, including the face and scalp. A side effect occurs within 2 weeks after the first dose of treatment. As a rule, the hair recovered after chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Until they return to the original state ( the process can take up to 6 months or more after treatment), it is not recommended to resort to chemical perms, straightening and coloring.


This side effect causes a woman to feel more tired than usual and can interfere with daily life and sleep. There are various reasons for its occurrence - anemia, reception of specific drugs, poor appetite, depression, accumulation of toxic substances in the destruction of cancer cells. It happens that there is a fatigue after chemotherapy for breast cancer and is stored for a long time.

Muscle and joint pain

Some cytotoxic drugs, especially paclitaxel (Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere), cause pain in muscles and joints. A side effect is observed within a certain time period after chemotherapy for breast cancer. A team of doctors from which the patient is working, can offer soft painkillers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). It will also be useful in light exercise.

Pain at the injection site - extravasation

Many chemotherapy drugs are given by injection, often intravenously. Usually there is no any discomfort or pain.

Sometimes drugs can penetrate into the surrounding tissue, the skin and the subcutaneous tissue due to damage to the vein. This condition is called extravasation. Blisters, redness, swelling, pain and a burning sensation at the injection site. These drugs are called blister agent, causing blistering defeat. In the treatment of malignant diseases of the breast blister agent are anthracyclines. In some cases develop severe damage to the skin and surrounding soft tissues. When such a condition requiring emergency medical treatment, taking measures that neutralize the action of the drug, depending on the situation - cold or heat, pain relief, administering medication, surgery, rehabilitation.

Changes in skin and nail

Sometimes there is a slight irritation of the skin, which occurs during and after a while after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Skin reactions may include redness, itching, dryness or rash. Also hypersensitivity is observed during treatment.

Changes in the nails appear as dimming, the occurrence of lines, cracking, brittleness.

The consequences of exposure

Some cytostatics cause skin reactions in the area where there was a radiation therapy. Most often, such a drug in the treatment of breast cancer is doxorubicin (Adriamycin), but may be other anthracyclines. To prevent this side effect of chemotherapy is usually administered prior to irradiation.

Hand-foot syndrome

This unintended consequence can provoke several drugs used in disease therapy. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, redness, soreness, patchy scaling, itching on the palms of hands and soles of the feet.

allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are not a common side effect of chemotherapy for breast cancer, but are sometimes observed. Although any drug can cause this symptom, but more often it happens in the appointment of paclitaxel or docetaxel, shortly after intravenous administration. Manifestations of an allergic reaction may include:

  • labored breathing;
  • wheezing;
  • skin rash or hives;
  • anaphylaxis.

Before the treatment patients receive drugs that prevent allergic reactions.

induced menopause

Chemotherapy drugs can damage the ovaries produce estrogen function respectively cause induced menopause (has arisen under the influence of drugs).

In women younger than 40 years, this side effect may be temporary, while maintaining a certain period after chemotherapy for breast cancer. In patients older than 40 years is often a constant and leads to premature menopause.

Fertility problems (sposobnosnostyu to conceive a child)

This type of treatment can cause problems with fertility. Periods become irregular or stop temporarily.

Not all cytotoxic drugs affect this function. Chemotherapy scheme speakers can be offered to women who want to preserve fertility.

During treatment, there is a possibility of pregnancy, so patients it is important to discuss the issue of contraception at the time with the doctor.

memory changes

A small number of women receiving chemotherapy, pointed out the problems with memory and concentration. This is due to the fact that treatment can affect brain function. Sometimes this side effect called "chemo-brain."

Damage to the nervous system

Taking some cytostatics may cause damage to the peripheral nerves, which is often related to the dose of the drug. This is especially true for paclitaxel and vinorelbine (Navelbine). Symptoms include tingling or numbness, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, ringing in the ears or changes in hearing.

The majority of women are marked temporary difficulties, only a few, they become long-term. This side effect may develop months or years after chemotherapy for breast cancer, and last for several months before leaving.

Damage to the bladder

Some cytotoxic agents break down into substances that irritate the mucous membrane of the bladder, when excreted in the urine. They can cause inflammation and bleeding. In rare cases, the damage becomes permanent when the most severe manifestations.

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Procytox), used to treat breast cancer, it may result in adverse effects.

Damage to the heart (cardiotoxicity)

Chemotherapy is capable of causing damage to the heart muscle. Most often changes cause anthracycline drugs. The degree of cardiotoxicity is dependent on the drug used.

Have the greatest potential doxorubicin and epirubicin (Pharmorubicin) in this regard. Adding a biological therapy drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) may increase the risk of heart damage. When the suspicion of drug dose reduce or stop the chemotherapy, to prevent further damage.

Symptoms may appear during treatment, sometimes occur after weeks or months after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Damage caused by doxorubicin or epirubicin, may acquire a permanent character.

Another type of cancer

Only a small percentage of women (less than 0.8%) developed leukemia as a result of the treatment of malignant breast disease. The probability of its occurrence depends on the type and dose of drugs, duration of treatment. It increases the risk of high-dose chemotherapy; certain drugs, especially anthracyclines; extended treatment time.


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