Cancer Support Group

Wednesday, Apr 24th

Last update:06:42:40 AM GMT

General Queries on Cancer

What causes Side effects?
Because Cancer cells grow and divide rapidly, Anti–cancer drugs are made to kill fast–growing cells. But certain normal, healthy cells also multiply quickly, and Chemotherapy can affect these cells, too. When it does, side effects may result. The fast growing, normal cells most likely to be affected are Blood cells forming in the Bone marrow and cells in the Digestive tract, Reproductive system, and Hair follicles.

Anti–cancer drugs also can damage cells of the heart, kidney, bladder, lungs, and Nervous system. The most common side effects of Chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and fatigue. Other common side effects include an increased chance of bleeding, getting an infection, or developing Anemia. These side effects result from changes in blood cells during Chemotherapy.

How long do Side effects last?
Most normal cells recover quickly when Chemotherapy is over, so most side effects gradually disappear after treatment ends, and the healthy cells have a chance to grow normally. The time it takes to get over some side effects and regain energy varies from person to person. How soon you will feel better depends on many factors, including your overall health and the kinds of drugs you have been taking.

While many side effects go away fairly rapidly, certain ones may take months or years to disappear completely. Sometimes the side effects can last a lifetime, as when Chemotherapy causes permanent damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or reproductive organs. And certain types of Chemotherapy occasionally may cause delayed effects, such as a second cancer, that show up many years later. It is important to remember that many people have no long–term problems due to Chemotherapy.

It also is reassuring to know that doctors are making great progress in preventing some of Chemotherapy’s more serious side effects. For instance, they are using many new drugs and techniques that increase Chemotherapy’s powerful effects on cancer cells while decreasing its harmful effects on the body’s healthy cells.

The side effects of Chemotherapy can be unpleasant, but they must be measured against the treatment’s ability to destroy cancer. People getting Chemotherapy sometimes become discouraged about the length of time their treatment is taking or the side effects they are having. If that happens to you, talk to your doctor.

It may be that your medication or treatment schedule can be changed. Or your doctor may be able to suggest ways to reduce side effects or make them easier to tolerate. Remember though, your doctor will not ask you to continue treatments unless the expected benefits outweigh any problems you might have.

I have been diagnosed with a metastasis. What are my treatment options?
In the case of a metastases, treatment options are often determined from a specific set of considerations related to your individual case. It is difficult to answer this question because all that can be presented here is general information. Given this difficulty, it is possible to say several things:

A. Depending on the type and extent of the Metastases, Systemic therapies are usually indicated. Chemotherapy and Hormonal therapy can be effective in controlling breast cancer metastases. (Regardless of where the cancer is now, it is still breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.)

B. Radiation therapy for metastasis to the bone or brain can be very effective. Radiation therapy and radio therapeutics are often helpful for bone pain.

I have metastatic breast cancer which is now in my bones. What are the available treatment options?
While bone metastases can be difficult to live with, there are many treatment options available for alleviating pain and treating the cancer itself. These treatments include:

Aredia/pamidronate
This is a treatment that is not chemotherapy or hormone therapy (It is a drug in the family of bi–phosphonates), which can be taken in addition to those treatments.

Aredia can relieve bone pain from metastases, and in some cases may actually rebuild bone where cancer has destroyed it. Aredia may also prevent further bone lesions from occurring in other areas of the body. There are two kinds of bone mets, Osteolytic and Osteoblastic – most women with bone mets have Osteolytic lesions and this is what Aredia targets.

Chemotherapy
Various types of Chemotherapy are given to treat bone metastases as well as bone pain. Choices in Chemotherapy drugs are usually determined by the drugs the patient has previously been given (the doctor would want to try something new), and the potential for side effects (such as low white blood cell count).

In addition, an important factor can also be the administration schedule required–if you have to choose between a treatment that would require a visit to your Oncologist once a week versus once every three weeks, you might prefer going to the doctor less often (all other considerations being equal).

Radiation therapy
Many women receive Adjuvant Radiation therapy at the site of their bone metastases to relieve pain. The relief generated by Radiation tends not to last as long, but can be effective for some people.

Hormone therapy
This is a treatment option that is offered to women whose cancer is estrogen dependent. While it may not seem the most aggressive approach, Hormone Therapy is a very effective treatment for bone metastases. Many women who are ER+ and have bone mets are given an Aromatase inhibitor, like Arimidex or Femara, which can stabilize and even fight the disease in the bone.

Metastron
This treatment is a Radio–pharmaceutical which cannot be taken while on chemotherapy. Metastron targets Osteoblastic lesions, and can be taken in addition to Pamidronate. Metastron is administered by certified nuclear medicine technologists in the nuclear medicine department at your treatment facility.

It is injected into a vein in your arm and it is possible for one injection to alleviate bone pain for weeks or months. For the first few days after your injection, you will have to take some precautions due to the level of Radioactive drug in your system. However, after those days, you can resume your normal activities without concern.

Quadramet
This treatment is also a Radio–pharmaceutical, which is administered by a certified nuclear medicine technologist. Quadramet alleviates bone pain, and targets osteoblastic lesions. An injection of Quadramet can relieve bone pain for weeks or months, it requires the same treatment administration and precautions as other Radio–pharmaceutical drugs for bone metastases.

I feel so angry and upset that I have been diagnosed with breast cancer again. What can I do?
That it is very common to feel betrayed, upset and angry about your diagnosis–even more than the first time you had breast cancer. Many women feel that their body has betrayed them by “Getting cancer” again, or that they didn’t make the right treatment decisions the first time. These are normal feelings, and it is appropriate to reassure yourself that you and your doctor made the best treatment decisions possible the first time around.

Most women who are diagnosed with a recurrence or metastasis say they are more frightened about the diagnosis than when they first had breast cancer because they know more about the disease. Remember, when you first had cancer and the doctor told you, you were terrified? That’s because you only knew a little bit about breast cancer. When you read books and talked with others, you may have still been scared, but you knew al lot more about cancer. You dealt with your fears and misconceptions. You replaced them with information and facts.

Think now about your feelings and tell yourself that you feel this way at this time because you only know a little bit about breast cancer recurrence or metastases. Lots of women have misconceptions about what it’s like to have the cancer come back or spread. You’ll read about metastatic disease, talk with others, and empower yourself with knowledge. Even though you might still be frightened, you’ll know exactly what you are facing. You can feel more in control, even though having a recurrence or metastasis of breast cancer is a serious situation.



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