Breast cancer

12 April 2012

Breast cancer treatment side effects last for years

Treatment-related complications are common in breast cancer patients long after their therapy has been completed, a new study says.

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Treatment-related complications are common in breast cancer patients long after their therapy has been completed, a new study says.

Researchers looked at 287 Australian breast cancer patients and found that more than 60% of them had at least one treatment-related complication up to six years after their diagnosis, and 30% had at least two complications.

Complications included skin reactions to radiation therapy, weight gain, fatigue, surgery-related issues, upper body symptoms and physical limitations, and lymphedema - a painful limb-swelling condition.

"Our work provides the first accounting of the true magnitude of the post-treatment problems suffered by breast cancer patients, and serves as a call to action for proper monitoring and rehabilitation services to care for them," study leader Kathryn Schmitz, associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

"We can no longer pretend that the side effects of breast cancer treatment end after patients finish active treatment. The scope of these complications is shocking and upsetting, but a ready solution for many of them already exists in rehabilitative exercise," said Schmitz, who is a member of the university's Abramson Cancer Center and serves as a senior scientist on a committee overseeing creation of a surveillance model for breast cancer survivors.

The study was published online in a special issue of the journal Cancer that focuses on the physical late effects of breast cancer treatment and ways to prevent, monitor and treat these conditions.

Many factors can prevent proper monitoring of breast cancer survivors for the types of complications identified in the study, Schmitz and her colleagues said.

Patients may have fragmented care and receive different types of treatment at different hospitals; both patients and doctors may believe that certain complications are "expected" and "normal" and don't warrant treatment; and many breast cancer patients aren't aware of or referred to physical therapy professionals.

Read more:
A new life after breast cancer

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer treatment and side effects.


(Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

 

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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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