How Does Breast Cancer Affect Your Health?

Breast cancer is a disease that affects both the body and mind. It can bring on many psychological, physical, and practical obstacles. Beyond the stress of receiving a diagnosis and having multiple treatments, you might also undergo unexpected physical changes.


Read on to learn more about the changes caused by breast cancer and how to adapt to them.


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Breast Cancer's Effects On The Body

Breast cancer usually starts in one breast.


The most typical indication of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, is a newly developed mass or lump in your breast.

Breast cancer has stages, just like other cancers. The first stage, stage 0, has the fewest discernible symptoms. Stage 4 denotes the spread of cancer to other body parts.

If breast cancer spreads to other body parts, those particular parts may also experience symptoms.


Organs affected by breast cancer could be the:

  • liver

  • lungs

  • bones

  • muscles

  • brain

Changes To Your Breasts:

As we’ve just mentioned, at first, breast cancer affects the breast area only.


Symptoms you may experience on your breasts:

  • A mass or a lump in your breast,

  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast,

  • Breast skin irritation, or dimples,

  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast,

  • Nipple pulling in or pain in the nipple area,

  • Any change in the size, color, or the shape of the breast,

  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood,

  • Nipple retraction.

Hair and Skin Changes

One possible side effect of breast cancer therapies is hair loss. Hair loss is not caused by all cancer treatments; it is most commonly related with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Treatments such as targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy are more likely to result in hair thinning or slow hair growth.


Chemotherapy can cause hair loss not only on your head but also throughout your body. It does so by attacking hair follicle cells, which usually starts a few weeks into treatment.


Breast cancer can also affect the skin around your breasts in addition to changing the breasts themselves. It could be very scratchy, and it might also become dry and cracked.


Additionally, some women experience orange-peel-like dimpling of the skin. Breast tissue thickening is another common symptom of breast cancer.


And, radiation may cause your skin to appear and feel sunburned around the treatment area.


These changes can affect how you feel about yourself. Do not hesitate to share your struggles with your loved ones. Talking to a mental health counselor can also be beneficial at times.


It's normal to be upset about hair loss and how it affects your self-esteem, especially if you're dealing with more serious health conditions. Some women find it beneficial to wear a wig, scarf, or hat, while others prefer to leave their heads uncovered.


The good news is that hair loss during cancer treatment is almost always a temporary issue. It's likely that your hair will regrow with a different feel and texture.


The Muscular And Skeletal Systems

Breast cancer has the potential to spread to the muscles and bones. Aromatase inhibitors are a class of estrogen-blocking breast cancer medications that may make your bones brittle. This may result in bone and joint discomfort. You may experience pain as well as restricted movement in certain places.


Certain forms of chemotherapy might induce bone weakening as well. Your joints may feel stiff, especially when you first wake up or rise up after sitting for an extended amount of time.


Such side effects can also raise your risk of injury due to a lack of mobility. Bone fractures are also a possible risk factor.


Breast cancer can be painful if it spreads to your bones. Radiotherapy, a type of specialized radiation treatment, can occasionally be beneficial. Inquire with your doctor about additional treatment choices, such as pain drugs.


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Lung, Liver, and Other Organs

Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. It can cause cancers in your liver, lungs, and other organs.

Complications may include blocked blood arteries, bone fractures, and spinal cord pressure.


Breast cancer can also spread to the brain and affect your nervous system.


Neurological consequences of breast cancer can be:

  • Headache

  • Double or blurry vision

  • Confusion

  • Difficulties with mobility and memory

  • Speech difficulties

  • Seizures

  • Consistent numbness, pain, or tingling in fingers or toes

Swelling

One of the first afflicted places is the underarm area. This is because of how close they are to the breasts. You may feel tenderness and swelling under your arms.


Surgeons may remove lymph nodes from your arm near the tumored breast. This can result in a fluid accumulation (lymphedema), which causes your arm, chest, and stomach to feel swollen, stiff, and sore. A physical therapist can assist in reducing these consequences.


Certain chemotherapy medications can cause your body to retain more fluid than usual. This might also cause swelling in your arms or legs. Physical treatment, as well as prescription steroid medication, may be beneficial.


Scarring

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The tissue surrounding the wounds in your skin may stiffen and scar if you've had surgery for your cancer. Your breasts' form could also change. Some surgical cuts, such as those made during a lumpectomy, might leave scars that may or may not heal completely.



You may be unhappy with your body size or form after breast cancer surgery, such as a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery, or you may be concerned about scars. The optimum physical size or shape, however, varies over time and from person to person.


What other people find appealing about you extends beyond your physical appearance.

Your doctor can help you get ready by explaining what to expect. To help you prepare, it might be useful to view images of women who have gone through this.


If the changes in your body are causing you distress, speaking with a mental health professional may be beneficial.


Tiredness

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There is no denying that receiving treatment for breast cancer can result in trauma that has an impact on your body, mind, and emotions. Tiredness is both a typical symptom and a side effect of the treatment for all cancer types, including breast cancer.



Your tiredness may ease if you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Eat a well-balanced diet

  • Exercise

  • Get enough sleep

Sex and Fertility


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Breast cancer and its treatment can have an effect on your sexuality, how you feel about your body, who you are as a person, your relationships, and how you express your sexuality. These adjustments can be incredibly unpleasant.


As a result of breast cancer or its treatment, your sexual drive may slow. Body image may play a role, but fatigue, pain, and worry may all play a role.


You may have less intercourse. In addition, chemo and hormone therapy can reduce your chances of getting pregnant.


Following treatment, some women regain regular periods. Others will never regain normal hormone production and will so enter menopause. This is especially common in women over the age of 40.


If you require assistance, consult your doctor, a reproductive specialist, or a mental health counselor.


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Each woman's experience with breast cancer and treatment is unique. It's a good idea to keep track of your progress and keep your doctors informed of any side effects. The sooner they know, the better they can assist you to regulate your symptoms.


You may feel alone or wonder why breast cancer has struck you. It is critical to seek assistance.


Share your feelings with your treatment team, your spouse, and trusted family members or friends. And remember, you can always get help from:

  • Your doctor

  • Breast cancer specialists

  • Breast care or cancer nurses

  • Breast cancer support groups

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