Health & Wellness

3 Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects & What You Can Do

When going through a breast cancer treatment plan, the side effects of the treatment itself can negatively affect your quality of life. You may feel like you have a fuzzy, forgetful brain. You might lose your interest in food. Or, your hair may start to fall out. All of these can lead to feelings of depression and a loss of control. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to address these three breast cancer treatment side effects.

  • 1. Chemo Brain

    Mental fog during breast cancer treatment, often called chemo brain, can persist for up to six months after treatment ends. Dealing with memory lapses, attention issues, and difficulty processing information can be frustrating.

    What you can do:

    • Use a planner to help organize your life.

    • Get sticky notes to write reminders.

    • Write down your thoughts in a journal throughout the day.

    • Try gentle exercise, like yoga, as it’s been shown to improve cognitive function.

  • 2. Eating Issues

    While undergoing breast cancer treatment, you may find yourself losing interest in food. If you’re dealing with a poor appetite, little changes to your diet can go a long way in keeping you healthy.

    What you can do:

    • Talk with your cancer team to figure out what may be causing your appetite issues.

    • Try eating breakfast and frequent, small meals.

    • Add high-calorie foods, like pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, or cream-based soups, into your diet.

    • Add butter, oil, and syrups to foods to increase calorie intake.

    • Use plasticware rather than silverware to reduce the metallic taste you may be experiencing.

    • Eat with friends or family members for pleasant conversation.

  • 3. Hair Loss

    Treatment-related hair loss is a common side effect for breast cancer patients. Hair is a unique part of your identity, and losing it can be distressing.

    What you can do:

    • Talk with your doctor about using a cooling cap, which might reduce your fallout.

    • Use a wide-toothed comb and be gentle when brushing and washing your hair.

    • Avoid damaging your hair with rollers, flat irons, or blow dryers.

    • Purchase a wig before you start losing any hair to better match your hair’s color.

    • Shop for hats and scarves for a more comfortable alternative to a wig.

Learn about other activities you can do to improve therapy side effects. Our experienced radiation oncologists and medical oncologists at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group provide individualized cancer care close to home. Our team reminds you to schedule your annual mammogram and engage in monthly breast self-exams. Make an appointment with a specialist today.

Sources:
American Cancer Society | Poor Appetite
‘Chemo Brain’ Lasts for Months in Many Survivors
‘Cooling Caps’ May Halt Chemo Linked Hair Loss
Half Report Severe Side Effects From Breast Cancer Therapy
Managing Cancer-related Side Effects

 

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