Radiation for Breast Cancer: What Are the Side Effects?

Radiation for Breast Cancer: What Are the Side Effects?

Pamela Bandelaria |Apr 1, 2021

Side Effects of Radiation for Breast Cancer

Around 13% of women in the United States will develop an aggressive form of breast cancer. Although this looks alarming, breast cancer can be treated in many ways. Radiation therapy is one of them, but there are side effects of radiation for breast cancer. What is radiation therapy, and is it effective and safe? This article will explain what it is, why it is used to help treat breast cancer, what the most common side effects are, and how you can manage them.

What is Breast Cancer?

Cancer is a disease wherein the cells lose regulations in cell division and continuously replicate. This uncontrolled growth and division of cells form a mass which is known as a tumor. Breast cancer occurs when these abnormal cells are found in the breast. The most common cells affected are the lining of the milk ducts. Usually, a mass is felt in the breast, but invasive breast cancer can spread through the blood or the lymphatic system and be transported throughout the body. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. It is second to lung cancer as the highest cause of cancer-related death among women.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Changes in how the breasts look and feel are important in identifying breast cancer. These changes could look like this:

  • Breast lump
  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Breast swelling or pain
  • Dimpling of the skin in or around the breast (resembles an orange peel)
  • Changes in the nipple (inward turning of the nipple, nipple that is dry or flaky, nipple discharge, nipple pain)
  • Lymph nodes that are swollen or painful

Having these symptoms does not automatically point to breast cancer. However, when these are encountered, it is important to see a doctor right away to have them evaluated. Checking for symptoms also does not replace routine screening for breast cancer, especially for high-risk populations.

Treatment for Breast Cancer

There are many options to treat breast cancer, depending on the type and severity of the cancer. As some forms of breast cancer are very aggressive and invasive, treatment usually consists of combining different treatment options. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy. It all depends on the stage and invasiveness of the cancer. For some forms, conservative surgery may be done first, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.

What is Radiation?

Radiation is energy produced and released from electromagnetic waves or subatomic particles. Radiation therapy works by preventing cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. It exposes cells to high-energy rays, which can either directly kill the cells or result in genetic changes that can cause cell death.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer is done in various areas. Radiation can be performed in the breast, chest, underarm area, and above or below the collarbone. It is regularly done in short courses for over 3 to 4 weeks or sometimes longer. It is also usually done along with hormonal therapy.

Why is Radiation Used to Help Treat Breast Cancer?

Radiation therapy is an important addition to the treatment of breast cancer. After surgery, it decreases the rate of cancer recurrence, the chance of complications and death, and improves patients' chances of survival. It is also a good treatment option as breast-conserving therapy. After conservative surgery, which can still preserve the breast, radiation therapy helps with local control of spread.

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Radiation?

Radiation therapy is beneficial to patients with breast cancer. It is non-invasive and preserves the structure of the breast. However, every treatment has its side effects. Side effects of radiation vary, and some may be immediately evident while others take time to manifest. It is important to know about the side effects to be able to make an informed decision before therapy.

Some side effects may be immediately noticeable weeks after starting treatment. These include breast pain or discomfort. It can become itchy, red, and peel like it was sunburnt. Another side effect is fatigue, feeling weak or tired, and lacking energy. This usually begins after radiation treatment and can last for months after the treatment ends. Fatigue can also lead to sleeping problems such as insomnia.

More long-term side effects include discoloration of the breast and changes in the size of the breast, becoming smaller over time. Swelling of the breast, back, or chest area can also occur due to the accumulation of fluid in the arms. This condition is called lymphedema and occurs if radiation therapy includes the lymph nodes in the underarm area or above the collarbone.

How to Manage the Side Effects of Radiation

Despite radiation therapy having side effects, there are ways by which we can alleviate them. Some are simple remedies, while others may need the evaluation and help of a doctor. For breast soreness or pain, common pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful. If the breast becomes red, itchy, or beings peeling, some creams can be used for relief.

Exercising and getting enough sleep can help combat fatigue. Short, simple exercises such as walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day can help alleviate this side effect. If fatigue or sleeping problems persist or lymphedema is evident, a doctor can help manage them.

Breast cancer is a very challenging illness, but we have many treatment options for people with it. Remember, no treatment is without side effects. It is crucial to be aware of these treatment options and their side effects to give the best management for every person.

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9 Signs of Pregnancy to Be Aware Of

Sinead Carey | April 1, 2021

What Are the Symptoms of Pregnancy? The early signs and symptoms of pregnancy can vary wildly from person to person. It is essential to be aware of the common symptoms and the possible and rare symptoms. So, what are the symptoms of pregnancy? We will dive into the specifics. Common Symptoms of Pregnancy 1. Missed Period Missing your period is most often the first sign of pregnancy. Your body recognizes the conception and stops making the hormone that sheds the lining of your womb. Your menstrual cycle is essentially paused, and you won’t have another period until after the baby is born. 2. Morning Sickness Contrary to what is shown on TV, morning sickness can also happen at noon and night. Feeling nauseous and vomiting is a normal part of early pregnancy. It is most common in the morning, and this is what coined the term. 3. Overtiredness or Fatigue You know the feeling when you sleep well but still feel tired? That is fatigue, and it is common in early pregnancy. Experts say this is due to the rise of hormone levels. This feeling tends to improve over time. 4. Frequent Urination Are you going to the bathroom every 10 minutes? This is another sign of pregnancy. Your body’s blood supply increases to support the new life, which means your kidneys must work harder. More waste plus more urine equals extra trips to the bathroom. 5. Aching Breasts Your breasts may start to feel sore and tender. You may have felt this before during your period, or it could be a completely new experience. This feeling is due to your fluctuating hormone levels and should fade with time. Some people describe this as an aching or tingling feeling. You might also experience a slight enlargement of your breasts. 6. Mild Cramps and Spotting Don’t panic if you see you have light spotting or cramping in the first few weeks. Spotting can indicate that the embryo has implanted in the lining of your womb. Implantation usually takes place a few days after you conceive and can cause blood spots or brown discharge. This symptom is crucial to know about, as it causes many people to believe they are not pregnant. If you are concerned or the bleeding persists, speak to your doctor without delay. 7. Headaches Persistent headaches can be a sign of so many things. That is why people don’t recognize them as a sign of pregnancy. If you are experiencing frequent headaches, there may be more to it than you think. Make sure you find a headache treatment option that safe for you. 8. Metallic Taste in Mouth Some people experience a metallic, coppery taste during early pregnancy. It can happen when eating or at seemingly random times throughout the day. Again, people do not consistently recognize the taste as a possibility of pregnancy. 9. Changes in Food Preferences This symptom varies from person to person, and some don’t experience it at all! You may crave certain foods; you may feel sick after certain foods; you can have a complete aversion to food altogether. Nutrition during pregnancy is important, and you should discuss this symptom with your doctor. [youmaylike] Rare Symptoms of Pregnancy Other symptoms that are rare but could affect you are: Heightened sense of smell. Heart palpitations. Increased saliva production (more drool). Nosebleeds. Swollen gums or tooth problems. More pimples or acne. Hot sweats. Are At-Home Pregnancy Tests Reliable? The sure-fire way to know if you are pregnant is to take an at-home test. These tests are reliable, and though false positives occur, it is rare. Always check the label, as different brands show different symbols to indicate pregnancy. The tests generally take a few minutes to develop, and digital tests can even display the word pregnant. When Should You Talk to a Doctor If You Think You’re Pregnant? If you suspect that you are pregnant, have a positive test result or are currently trying to get pregnant, the next step is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will want to take a complete medical history, and if you are already pregnant, they may prescribe prenatal medication. The doctor can guide you on the steps throughout the pregnancy and lend an ear if you have any questions. It is vital to discuss everything with a medical professional. Your doctor is the gateway to an informed and happy pregnancy.

8 Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Sinead Carey | April 1, 2021

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy Pregnancy can be an exciting and life-changing event in a person’s life. However, it also comes with many risks and challenges. So, while focusing on the positive aspects of the process is important, you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of possible complications, such as the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an ectopic pregnancy should be considered an emergency and is one of the leading causes of maternal death in the first trimester. Though the occurrence can be difficult to measure, the March of Dimes estimates that 1 in 50 pregnancies in the U.S. is ectopic. Considering that just under 4 million babies are born in the U.S. each year, this is a significant number of people suffering from it. Though this is something no one wants to think about, recognizing the signs of an ectopic pregnancy can mean the difference between life and death. What is an Ectopic Pregnancy? The word ectopic means “out of place.” Therefore, an ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg forms in the wrong place — in other words, outside of the womb. Most ectopic pregnancies are defined as “tubular” because more than 90% of ectopic cases happen in the fallopian tubes. In a normal pregnancy, the sperm and egg meet, become fertilized and travel down to attach to the lining of your womb. This is where your baby will grow for nine months. In a tubular pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tube before it manages to reach the womb. It is also possible for an ectopic pregnancy to occur in the ovary, cervix or even somewhere else in your belly. The problem is that these areas don’t have space or the environment to promote your baby’s growth. As a result, an ectopic pregnancy can cause heavy bleeding or a burst fallopian tube, which is potentially fatal to the mother. The unfortunate truth is that all ectopic pregnancies are non-viable and end in the loss of the pregnancy. 8 Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy In some cases of ectopic pregnancy, the mother may not be aware that they are pregnant. However, signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can start the same as signs of a normal pregnancy, so it is vital to be aware of them. Signs and symptoms include: Abnormal vaginal bleeding. Sudden pain in the abdomen or pelvis. Cramping pains in the pelvis. Lower back pain. Tender breasts. Nausea and vomiting. Dizziness and fainting spells. Shoulder pain. [youmaylike] Causes and Risk Factors It is still not known why some people suffer from ectopic pregnancies and others don’t. However, there are many risk factors known to increase your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy. Risk factors: Aged 35 years or older. Smoker. Previous ectopic pregnancy. Fertility treatments, such as IVF. Pelvic inflammatory disease. Scarring from prior pelvic surgery. Fertility drugs to treat infertility. Pregnancy while using an intrauterine device (IUD). Treatments Options There are two main approaches to the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy. Medication This form of treatment is less common and can only be done in certain situations. However, as an ectopic pregnancy is potentially fatal, it often requires rapid and comprehensive treatment. Medication can be effective if it is caught before the pregnancy is too far along. Your doctor will also ensure that there has been no rupture or immediate risk of a rupture. The primary medication used to treat ectopic pregnancies is methotrexate. This drug works by stopping the cells from growing. Your body will absorb the pregnancy over the course of a few weeks, and it does not require any surgery if it is successful. Surgery More often than not, emergency surgery is required. For example, in the event that your tube has ruptured, you will be required to undergo immediate surgery. This type of surgery is usually done laparoscopically, which is another word for keyhole surgery. The ectopic pregnancy is removed during surgery. In some cases, it may also be necessary to remove the ruptured fallopian tube. How to Seek Medical Help The main takeaway from this is that an ectopic pregnancy is an emergency, life-threatening situation. All of the symptoms listed above are cause for concern. If you experience severe, sudden abdominal pain accompanied by vaginal bleeding, dizziness or shoulder pain, you should seek help immediately. Likewise, if you suspect you may have an ectopic pregnancy, you should go to the emergency room without delay.

5 Ways to Treat Nail Fungus

Krista Bugden | April 1, 2021

Treatment for Nail Fungus Nail fungus, in the simplest of terms, is a fungal infection that impacts your toenails. You can also get nail fungus on your fingernails, although it is uncommon. While not serious, nail fungus can lead to brittle nails which may eventually fall off. So, what can you do about it? In this article, we’re going to examine what nail fungus is and treatment for nail fungus. What is Nail Fungus? Nail fungus, as mentioned above, is an infection that often appears as a yellow spot under the nail. When this infection spreads, the nail may fall off. Additionally, if the fungus impacts the skin, it is known as “athlete’s foot.” Some common symptoms of nail fungus include: Thickening nail. Yellow, brown, or white discharge. Distorted nail. Brittle or “crumbling” nail. A foul smell. The main cause of nail fungus is dermatophyte fungi. While you can get fungus at any age, it is more common to happen in people later in age. It’s theorized that reduced blood flow and weakened immunity may play a role in the development of nail fungus. Additionally, heavy sweating is associated with the development of fungus. 5 Treatments for Nail Fungus It’s important to treat nail fungus to avoid it from getting worse. Most cases also won’t resolve on their own. Here are a few medical and home remedies you may want to consider: 1. Tea Tree Oil Tea tree oil has many uses. And if you’re into the all-natural realm of things, this might be the route you want to take to treat your nail fungus. Some research, via small clinical studies, demonstrates that tea tree oil could potentially treat nail fungus. Apply tea tree oil to the nail twice daily, using cotton swabs or something similar. 2. Snakeroot Extract Snakeroot extract is used medicinally for a variety of reasons, including high blood pressure and mental illness. It’s also shown great promise in treating nail fungus due to its potent anti-fungal effects. In fact, research even shows how snakeroot extract might be more effective than the commonly prescribed ciclopirox. 3. Vicks VapoRub This one might come as a bit of a surprise! However, Vicks VapoRub, which includes eucalyptus and camphor, may have a positive effect on nail fungus, and studies even back this up. Like other remedies, applying this once or twice a day directly to the nail can help your fungus disappear. 4. Oral Anti-Fungal Drugs If you book a visit to your doctor, they may prescribe you medication that targets the fungi, such as terbinafine and itraconazole. These oral drugs help a healthy nail grow in after the fungus-infected part of the nail grows out. [youmaylike] Unfortunately, these medications must be taken for about 6–12 weeks for them to be effective. In some cases, it may even take four months for the fungus to disappear with oral medication. Additionally, you want to be cautious using these medications since they can have various side effects including liver damage and skin rashes. For those with skin conditions and liver diseases, your doctor probably won’t recommend these drugs and may opt for more all-natural remedies. 5. Medicated Nail Polish or Nail Cream Ciclopirox is one of the most common prescriptions for nail fungus. Like nail polish, you simply paint it on your nail once each day. You do this for a week, before wiping it off with alcohol and starting the process over again. For severe cases, an individual may have to do this for a year or more. Then, there are nail creams that are antifungal. These are usually applied after you’ve briefly soaked the nail. For this option, you can get over the counter or prescription creams. Preventing Nail Fungus While treatment can help you combat a current fungus infection, what can you do to prevent a future one? Here are a few tips: Make sure to wash both your feet and hands regularly. Trim your nails and file them down regularly. If you sweat excessively, change your socks. Wear shoes that allow your feet air to breathe. Wear flip-flops or swim shoes in changerooms and shared pools. Avoid nail polish and fake nails. In severe cases of nail fungus, surgery may be required to remove the nail and apply the topical medication directly to the affected area. Additionally, removal of the nail may be necessary if your pain becomes debilitating.