When you are being treated for breast cancer, it’s likely that you will have side effects from that treatment and, perhaps, also symptoms of the disease itself. For instance, the cancer itself can cause symptoms if the tumor puts pressure on an organ or body part and causes pain. Or the tumor may change the way that organ or body part works. The treatments used to destroy cancer cells can harm healthy cells at the same time, and that means treatment can cause side effects.
Side effects can affect each person differently. Some people have none, while others may have many. Some side effects change over time, while others stay the same. Some may be short term, while others may be permanent.
When side effects occur, they can interfere with your day-to-day life. These side effects can range from fatigue (extreme tiredness) and hot flashes to more troubling ones such as infection and swelling in your arms and hands, called lymphedema. Some side effects may worsen other symptoms. For example, if you’re depressed or not sleeping well, you may be tired. As a result, your pain may feel worse. Getting relief from one side effect may help you with others.
Almost all side effects can be treated, and sometimes there are things you can do to help prevent them, too. It’s important that you tell your health care team how you feel so you can get the help you need.