Breast cancer affects both body and mind. Beyond the obvious stress of being diagnosed and need of various treatments, you may experience physical changes you were not expecting. During treatment, you’re likely to experience changes ranging from hair loss to weight gain to swelling particularly known as lymphedema. Below we have dealt in detail how the body responds to the breast cancer treatment and how you need to deal with those changes.
The changes the body undergoes during the overall treatment:
Hair Loss – Chemotherapy can cause hair loss as it attacks the hair follicle cells. Hair loss during cancer treatment is always a temporary issue and usually starts a couple of weeks soon after you start taking treatment. Once the treatment is finished, the hair again starts regrowing. Sometimes, they may start growing before you finish with the treatment.
Menstrual Changes – Breast cancer treatment can cause disturbances in the normal hormone production and lead to interruption in your regular menstrual cycle. This means you might experience night sweats, hot flashes, joint pain, weight gain, a loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness, and infertility. In some cases, you may experience regular periods after treatment. In some cases, women never regain normal hormone production and enter menopause.
Swelling – Swelling during or after breast cancer treatment is a condition in which fluid accumulates in different parts of the body. This condition is known as lymphedema. Having breast cancer surgery or radiation puts you at the risk of developing lymphedema in arms and legs. To reduce your risk or reduce the symptoms, if you already have them get in touch with a lymphedema specialist or wear custom lymphedema garments. You may also be asked to do specific exercises to help prevent or reduce your symptoms.
Skin Changes – If you have radiation for breast cancer, you might experience the red rash that looks like a sunburn in the affected area. In some cases, this can be severe. Your breast tissue may also feel firm or swollen. Radiation affects the body in many more ways. It can cause underarm hair loss, fatigue, nerve and heart damage, arm swelling or lymphedema or cardiac damage.
How Does the Body Change After Specific Procedures?
Lumpectomy – Commonly known as “breast conserving surgery”, it is done to remove small tumors locally without removal of the entire breast. The surgeon removes the tumor, as well as a margin of tissue around the tumor. This surgery leaves the scar on the breast. The patient may also experience physical changes or breast asymmetry.
Mastectomy – Surgeons perform mastectomy when large tumors need to be removed. The entire breast is removed in this procedure. In this case, sometimes women get their both breasts removed which is known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. This may be a good option if you have an increased risk of cancer in the other breast.
Lymph Node Removal – Regardless of the breast cancer surgery you undergo, your surgeon will most likely remove one or more lymph nodes found in your armpits. If there exists no clinical evidence or suspicion that cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes, you’ll most likely need to have a sentinel biopsy. This is where only one or two nodes are removed.
If you’ve had a lymph node biopsy that showed cancer before your surgery, you’ll likely need an axillary lymph node dissection. In this procedure, the doctor usually removes 15 to 20 nodes in an attempt to remove all cancerous nodes.
This, in turn, leaves the scar at the incision site on the upper outer part of your breast near the armpit.
Above all, love yourself. Surround yourself with positive and like minded people. Reach out for help if you happen to feel low about the changes in the body. At Pink Ribbon, we help you regain your confidence after breast cancer surgery through customized post-mastectomy products such as breast forms, mastectomy bras, post-surgical camisoles, swimsuits, custom lymphedema garments, and other mastectomy apparel. Contact us for consultation and support at (479) 242-9277.