Supporting a Loved One Through Breast Cancer
When you have a loved one who is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often hard to know how to help. You may feel lost, hurt, angry or fearful while feeling you have to keep it together for them because they are going through so much. Knowing what to say can also be hard, as things you mean as comfort can come off as anything but. So how do you proceed in this possibly terrifying new world you have found yourself in? How do you comfort and support your loved one? Keep reading, as we discuss some ways in which this can be accomplished.
Check Your Own Feelings
If you are not sure how you feel about cancer, it is likely that you will say something thoughtless when faced with it. Cancer is a terrifying prospect, and one we as a society are not taught how to properly deal with. Before you try to be there for the other person, then, stop and take a moment to think. Think about your past experiences with others who were diagnosed. Are you afraid? Angry? Unsure? Anxious? Recognize your emotions and keep them in mind as well as what the person with breast cancer may be feeling.
Above all, it is necessary to listen to what the person is telling you. Sometimes the only support a person needs is someone to vent to or rant with, someone they know has their back and can be a person to lean on until they can face the world again on bad days or someone who will let them celebrate the victories when things are going well. Be sure to show you are listening. Ask questions if you have them, and paraphrase what the person is saying to make sure that you understand. This is not the time for advice.
Offer to Be There
Cancer diagnoses are isolating. Offer to go with your friend or loved one to their doctor’s appointments. Appointments can be very overwhelming both physically and emotionally with a lot of information being flung at the breast cancer patient all at once. Take notes for them, to prevent information from getting lost.
See what else you can do- in practical terms. If your loved one has children, perhaps you could cook a meal for the family occasionally, help the children with their homework or do something else concrete to support them.
When In Doubt, Ask
No two people are alike, nor are any two breast cancer cases. If you know or have known two cancer patients, do not assume that your friend or loved one with breast cancer has the same needs or wants as the other person with cancer you knew. This should go without saying but when people are trying to be supportive, sometimes they forget to ask what sorts of support the cancer patient actually needs. Breast cancer makes people feel as if their life is spinning out of control, especially at first. Give that person back as much control as possible by listening to their wants and needs and doing as they ask.
Breast cancer diagnoses are difficult, both for the person diagnosed and their friends and family. Friends and family may be left feeling unsure, shut out and with no idea what exactly they can do to help. This article is not a definitive guide. However, it will give you a starting point, and ideas for supporting the breast cancer patient in your life.
Music As Therapy: The Healing Power Of Music
For ages, people have turned to music to get excited, calm down, share experiences, and more. Over time, scientific research has shown that this natural affinity for tunes is much more than a feeling—music can have powerful healing qualities.
Music therapy applies those scientific findings to enhance music’s power and help people heal to improve their physical, emotional, mental, social or even spiritual well-being.
Many different groups have been shown to benefit from music therapy, including:
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Music therapy has been shown to improve social behaviors, boost focus, reduce anxiety, and even enhance body awareness and coordination for people with ASD, as detailed in a study in Journal of Music Therapy.
Music therapy can enhance the quality of life of oncology patients in many ways, including by reducing pain and anxiety, boosting mood, and improving heart rate and blood pressure. Cancer.org cites a review of studies reflecting these impacts, and music therapists are part of many cancer management teams.
Soldiers with PTSD
Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gained an opportunity to better express and control their feelings and build a sense of connectedness through improvisation on hand drums, as cited in this Huffington Post article.
Special needs children
Most children engage with music quickly, so it can serve as a strong motivator to encourage kids with special needs to make requests, develop motor skills, and complete challenging activities. This post from Friendship Circle shares how.
For dementia patients, an aptitude and appreciation for music is one of the abilities that stays with them the longest. Music can be used to improve patients’ mood, manage stress-induced agitation, encourage positive social engagement, and prompt cognitive functioning, according to Alzheimers.net.
Individuals with depression
For people suffering from depression, music can provide a catharsis and much-needed way to connect with others through joint improvisation. Creating music also enables people to positively experience their physical being. These are critical elements of depression recovery, as explained in this BJPsych article.
For pain management
Music provides sensory stimulation that causes patients with chronic pain to relax, reduces stress, boosts their mood, and reduces the patient’s perceived pain level. As explained by Everyday Health, patient learns to relax automatically while listening to music with practice.
Combining the Art and Science of Music
These are only some of the ways music therapy is improving lives. When the art and science behind music combine, they create a powerful therapy technique that can stimulate and heal us, both body and soul. With thousands of certified musical therapists in America today, many different kinds of patients experience the healing powers of music each year.
Breast Cancer Walks
There are many different ways to help raise funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. From Tough Mudders to marathons to bungee jumps, there’s an activity to suit every taste. And you don’t have to be a fitness adventurer to find an incredible fundraising experience.
For those of us who aren’t fitness adventurers, a fundraiser walk is a great way to take steps to support awareness, treatment, and research. But be warned, lighter physical activity doesn’t mean these events are for the faint of heart. From 5K strolls to 60-mile treks, these fundraising events are likely to be their own reward for your efforts.
Here are some of the most popular walks for breast cancer:
Race For The Cure
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure may be the best option for newbie walkers looking for a fun way to test their laces. This 5K run/walk series takes place at over 150 locations all over the world, and claims to be the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer.
In addition to raising awareness and funds, these events seek to honor breast cancer survivors and remember those who have been lost to it.
Making Strides Breast Cancer
Another option for walkers who want to make an impact while walking shorter distances is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. This walk series is organized by the American Cancer Society in nearly 300 communities all over the country each year, with each event covering no more than three to five miles.
Funds from these races support not just awareness but also cutting-edge research and around-the-clock support for those affected by breast cancer.
If a morning of walking just isn’t enough, you may find multi-day walk events more fulfilling. You may want to give the AVON39 a try.
This walk covers 39.3 miles over two days with a call to walkers to take a stand and fight breast cancer head-on. These weekend-long events are not for the faint of stride, and promise an inspiring journey in major cities all over the United States.
Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk
Proclaimed to be “the biggest impact you can make” in the fight against breast cancer on its website, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day is more than a fundraiser—it’s a movement.
This walk takes you on a journey of 60 miles as you connect with other walkers. Described in testimonials as a “calling,” this walk is intended to not just offer a little fitness, but an inspirational experience.
A Walk For Every Pace
Whether you’re taking your first lap or are ready to take on the world, there’s a race for you—and every step matters. These are only a few of the most popular options for walkers seeking to support breast cancer. Check out events in your community to learn about more ways to give back.
Cancer: What to Ask Your Doctor
A cancer diagnosis can be hard to process at first. You may feel shock, anger, or even disbelief. But as a cancer patient, you are an equal partner with your doctor in your treatment and recovery. The more you understand what your body is going through, the better prepared you are to take care of yourself and make the big decisions necessary for your recovery.
So don’t hesitate to ask your doctor any questions you have about your diagnosis or treatment. Helping you understand your cancer is part of their job. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some recommended questions to ask about your cancer to get you started:
Understand Your Diagnosis
- What type of cancer do I have?
- Where is my cancer?
- Has my cancer spread in my body? Where did it start?
- What stage of cancer do I have?
- How do I get a copy of my pathology report?
- What are my odds for survival, as far as you can tell?
- How can I reach you if I have questions later?
Understand Your Options
- What is your experience treating the kind of cancer that I have?
- What are my treatment options?
- Will I need additional testing before we can determine the best treatment?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- What are the advantages and risks of this treatment?
- Should I consider joining a clinical trial?
- How can I learn more about clinical trials?
Understand Your Treatment
- What is the goal for my treatment? Are we curing my cancer or controlling my symptoms?
- Will additional specialists be involved with my treatment? Who will be in charge of my treatment plan?
- What drugs will I be on? What will each of them do for me?
- Will I need any additional drugs or other treatments?
- What potential risks or side effects are associated with these drugs and/or treatments?
- What side effects should I report immediately, should I experience them?
- What should I do to prepare for treatment? Are there foods I should avoid? What about alcohol?
- What changes should I expect to make to my day-to-day life? Can I exercise during treatment? Can I go to work?
- How frequently will I need treatments? How long will each treatment last? How long will I need treatments for?
- How will we know if the treatment is effective?
- How likely is it that my cancer will recur?
- How much will my treatment cost? How much will my insurance cover?
As a cancer patient, you play an active role in your fight to recovery. The better you understand your diagnosis and treatment, the better you can care for yourself during this time. So take an active role in your recovery and ask your doctor any question you have—it’s what they’re there for!
Finding a Good Wig
Why Wear a Wig?
For many chemotherapy patients, wigs are a lifesaver. Many women who have experienced breast cancer or any other type of cancer which required aggressive chemotherapy, know the trauma of losing a major part of your body – head hair, body hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. For these brave women, a beautiful wig can make a huge difference.
Our hair is one of the main ways that we express their individuality and image and styling hair is normally a significant part of a person’s daily routine. Wigs and hair pieces are a great way to help you to look and feel comfortable, and to hold onto this familiar part of daily life while you undergo your treatment. Choosing to cover your head with a wig can also help boost your confidence when you are out, making you feel less self- conscious about your image, and more able to go about your daily routines.
Choosing to wear a wig can also help to feel as if you are taking control over your situation – you control the style, the color, the texture and the brand. You can even control when you lose your hair if you choose to cut it before your treatment.
Most people who decide to use a wig during their chemotherapy treatment have some time to prepare before they need the wig. Taking the time to make sure that you are well prepared can help make the process less stressful, and make the transition from your own hair to your new hair piece, a little smoother.
The fantastic thing about wigs is that you can choose one, try it on and have it styled to suit you before you even lose any of your hair. This can be a great confidence booster and can help you to feel at ease when you have so many big changes coming up.
Here are some tips to help you get ready for your new wig:
Cut Your Hair
If your hair is not short, then cut it short before you begin your treatments. There are several reasons for this:
- Firstly, it is much less traumatic to lose small clumps of short hair than it is to see your long locks falling out.
- Secondly, if you have some time to adjust to short hair before your treatment, it won’t be too long before your hair grows back and feels ‘normal’, since your hair was short to begin with.
- Lastly, it is much easier to fit a wig over shorter hair.
While you may have had luscious long locks before, wigs can feel hotter than natural hair. For this reason, you might want to consider whether a shorter or thinner wig would be more suitable while you have your treatment. The last thing you want to do is add any further discomfort to yourself while you are undergoing chemotherapy.
It can be hard to know where to start if this is all new territory, so don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your local cancer center, hospital or hairdresser may be able to point you in the direction of a quality wig shop.
Be sure to also get recommendations for hairdressers who will shape the wig for your face. You may even want to book an appointment to speak with one before the actual cut, to make sure you are comfortable and confident with the professional you have chosen. It’s best to pick out your wig and have it styled before your begin your chemotherapy – that way the hairdresser will be able to see your natural hair colour and style and tailor the wig accordingly.
Choosing Which Type of Wig
Wigs come in two main different varieties: synthetic and real hair. Most chemotherapy patients opt for a synthetic wig but there are advantages and disadvantages to both types.
Synthetic hair is ‘man-made’ – fashioned mostly from acrylic to look and feel like real hair.
- Dries very easily
- Easy to manage
- Maintains its good look around the clock
- Must be washed with special products
- Cannot be used with heat appliances
Real hair is made from good quality human hair which is treated and coloured before being made into different style wigs.
- Can be colored, curled or straightened just like real hair
- Can be washed and styled with regular hair products
- Can look more natural
- More expensive than synthetic wigs
- Need more care
- Can have ‘bad hair days’ just like real hair
One option for those with long hair in good condition is to have your own hair made into a wig before your treatment begins. This takes a few weeks and can be very expensive but it might be worth considering if you have enough hair for it.
Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that most wigs only last between 6 months to a year. For most chemotherapy patients, this timeframe is perfect, but some people do need one for longer than this. Manufacturers generally only recommend a wig for six months if it is being worn everyday as wigs tend to sag and get friction build up over time.
Selecting the Right Color
Wigs come in a broad range of colors and styles and getting the color right can be the most likely cause of headaches when you are trying to pick one out. When choosing your wig, you should always select a color than it one to two shades lighter than your own hair. This is because your skin color tends to appear a little ‘off’ during chemotherapy, and because wig hair is so thick, it can appear darker once it’s on.
If you are feeling adventurous, you may even want to take the opportunity to have a different hair color for a wig so try on a variety of styles, colors and lengths before you settle on one. If you want to make a radical color change then you may like to consider what clothes and makeup you wear, as sometimes these tones need to be changed up to suit the new hair color.
If you want to base your wig color on your natural hair color, be sure to choose a wig that has a mix of tones with highlights and lowlights. This will ensure that it looks natural and does not look too severe. If you normally color your hair, you can even select a wig that has darker roots, appearing as though your hair needs to be retouched. If you have lost your hair already then take a photo along with you to the wig supplier so the salesperson can help you to make the best color match.
Paying For Your Wig
Depending on the type of wig you choose, the cost of your temporary hair replacement can be expensive so you need to think about how you will fund this.
If you have health insurance, be sure to check if your policy covers part, or the entire cost of your wig. Not every company will offer a reimbursement for this, but a large amount do, so this should be your first port of call. If you find that you don’t have any health coverage for a wig, make sure you look at other options such as funding it yourself. If you think you might have trouble covering the cost of the wig yourself, make contact with a local cancer centre to enquire about free wigs or other funding options.
Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for a small amount of extras which are not normally covered by any kind of funding. This includes a wig stand, wig brush and styling products.
Caring For Your Wig
To keep your wig in the best shape possible and ensure it lasts for the duration of your treatment, you will need to care for it properly, just like you would your own hair. Follow these tips to keep your wig in tip top shape:
- Give your wig ‘time off’ by wearing a hat or scarf some days
- Wash gently at night and leave to dry naturally overnight
- Brush your wig only when completely dry – brushing wet will cause the wig to lose its shape
- Enhance the wig with a small amount of product suitable for its type
- Avoid using heat products, particularly on synthetic wigs as they will melt
Cancer: Managing Emotionally
Often people underestimate the emotional toll that cancer can have. Being diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing event – no matter which stage you are at.
Dealing with these life changes as well as undergoing treatment and side effects can be just as hard on a person emotionally, as it is physically. From the time you get the diagnosis to the time you finish up with your treatment, cancer can bring about a broad range of feelings – ones that you are often not prepared for. Cancer can be disruptive to almost every facet of a person’s life including relationships, home life and hobbies or interests. Depending on how serious the diagnosis is and what sort of treatment will have to be carried out, it can make you re-evaluate everything in life, from relationships, to working situations, to the future.
During this difficult time, a person may experience a range of different emotions including depression, anxiety, a sense of isolation and even anger. Whether you are currently experiencing these new feelings, or are watching a loved one experience them, it’s important to read on, and realize that these feeling are normal and that everyone deals with their emotions differently.
When someone first learns that they have cancer, they may feel overwhelmed.
They may be overwhelmed by thoughts of their future and whether or not they are going to live, by the changes and disruptions in their normal routines, by the amount of medical information that they are suddenly being exposed to or by the feelings of losing control that they may be experiencing.
Though it can be a lot to take in at first, the best thing to do is to try and organise your thoughts and then begin to understand your condition as best you can. Try to learn as much as possible about your cancer and ask lots of questions at medical appointments. This will help to ensure that you are comfortable talking about your condition and are well informed and able to make decisions about your treatment.
It’s completely normal to feel angry about cancer. People who have been diagnosed with cancer often feel anger or resentment toward themselves, their loved ones or even their health care providers. While this type of anger normally surfaces when a person is diagnosed, anger can surface at any time throughout the cancer journey – even after treatment has finished and survivorship has begun.
It is helpful for people experiencing these feelings to know that this anger is a common response to have for someone living with cancer, and is completely natural. When one considers the toll that cancer-related symptoms and treatments can take on the body it is understandable why even these things alone would cause someone to become angry.
While most people associate anger with negative connotations, anger is not necessarily a bad emotion – and sometimes, it is one that people need to feel. If anger is expressed in a healthy way it can be a safe, positive thing to experience and can often motivate people with cancer to overcome the obstacles they are facing.
The best way to cope with feelings of anger is to recognise them – identify anger for what it is and acknowledge that you are struggling with it. Once you have recognised it, it will be easier to identify when you are feeling angry, making you are less likely to confuse your emotions or take anger out on others without realizing it. Once you have identified your feelings, find a safe and healthy way to express it. This might include talking about it, undertaking a physical activity such as kickboxing, beating on a pillow or just having a good yell and cry to release some of your frustrations.
Feeling Stressed or Anxious
Cancer can be one of the most stressful experiences in life – for both the patient and their loved ones. Cancer can put strain on every area of life – from financial to work. It is completely normal to experience feelings of stress or anxiety when you are diagnosed with cancer. Often this results in feelings of tenseness, and can include many symptoms such as an increased heart rate, aches and pains, changes in diet, weakness or dizziness or an inability to sleep.
It is important that these symptoms are not simply overlooked, as stress and anxiety can actually inhibit the body from undertaking its natural healing processes, making your recovery longer. Studies have also shown that chronic stress can be detrimental to the immune system and affect overall wellbeing. If you are concerned about stress or anxiety, consult your doctor and consider the following tips for reducing stress:
- Stay organised. Keep track of your appointments and activities using a day planner or a suitable app. Avoid overbooking yourself and try not to book too many appointments in one day or week. Know your limits and how much energy you have and be sure to prioritise – some things can wait.
- Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones for help. People will likely offer their support so think about specific tasks they could help with and take them up on the offer.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. If you have large tasks that need to be completed, try breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps. This might seem silly, but it makes otherwise overwhelming things seem easier to handle. If you need to clean the house, do just one room at a time, and have a break in-between.
- Get on top of your finances. Cancer can hit your wallet hard, so be sure to manage this as soon as possible. Organise any insurances you have and how you will manage the cost of your cancer care before the bills start piling up.
- Try to get some exercise in. When you have the energy, incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your day. This can lower stress levels and give you time to regularly reflect and clear your head.
- Consider what other support you might need. There are lots of other people going through the same journey so if you are finding yourself feeling stressed or anxious consider joining a support group or talking to a counsellor or social worker.
- Make time each day to do something that relaxes you – this might be reading a book, listening to music or taking a bubble bath. It is important to set this wind-down time aside to destress each day. You may want to consider incorporating some relaxation techniques into your day to lower your stress levels – this might be deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Talk to your doctor about medication. If you are finding that your stress levels are becoming out of control, speak to your doctor about whether or not you would benefit from medication. Ensure that your doctor also knows what cancer related medicines and treatments you are taking so that they don’t prescribe a medication that could interact with them.
As well as experiencing anxiety about your cancer, you may also experience sadness or depression. Depression can occur at any stage of your cancer – from the time you receive the news, till after treatment is finished, and is a completely normal response to the onset of any major health problem.
Depression can affect many facets of physical and mental health including energy levels, eating, emotional feelings, mood, concentration, sleeping and can even lead to thoughts about hurting yourself or others. Like stress, depression can lower a person’s quality of life and make it difficult for them to go about daily activities. Though it is common for people to experience depression during or after cancer, it should not go untreated as it can undermine the strength (both emotional and physical) needed to get through the cancer journey.
You will need as much support as you can get from your friends and family, and may also want to consider what other support you may need. Tell your doctor what you are feeling and talk to them about what else might help – whether it is support in a group environment, some medication or other treatment such as counselling. Most importantly – don’t bottle up your feelings. Talk to someone you can trust about how you have been feeling and be open about your struggle.
A common emotion suffered by cancer patients is that of guilt. You may feel guilt over getting cancer and how that has affected your friends and family, you may feel as though you are a burden on those around you or you may be feeling that your lifestyle choices are to blame for your cancer and are experiencing guilt for this reason. You are not alone – many people with cancer have these feelings.
Guilt can be experienced by those with cancer – and by those surrounding them. Often loved ones also experience guilt for many reasons. It is important to express these feelings of blame or regret with those around you. Feelings of guilt can come in many forms:
- Guilt for not having noticed symptoms or seeking medical attention earlier
- Guilt for feeling like a burden to your family
- Guilt over not being able to cope with a normal schedule or workload due to your health
- Guilt over the financial costs of your cancer treatment
- You may even have ‘survivor’s guilt’ which is associated with feelings of guilt related to why you survived your cancer when other’s did not
Whatever the guilt is that you are experiencing, it is important to let go of it. A lot of the guilt that you might experience may be misplaced. Even if the guilt is justified, it is not healthy to dwell on these feelings and it is detrimental to your wellbeing to continue to be drained by them. Try to remember that cancer is nobody’s fault. There is a lot about cancer that even doctors and scientists are yet to fully understand so let go of any mistakes you think you have made and focus on what’s ahead.
The most important thing to do is speak up! Research has proven that those who express their feelings are able to let go of them more than those who choose to bottle them up. If you are comfortable, the best people to talk to are family and friends. If this is not possible, then talk to another survivor, a counsellor or consider joining a support group. Here are some last minute tips to keeping your chin up during this turbulent time in your life:
- Stay Positive. Easier said than done, but making a conscious effort to be hopeful and positive can help. Try and redirect your energy to focusing on what lies ahead and getting well.
- Accept Bad Days. You will have your bad days, and sometimes you need to just put your pyjamas back on and wallow. This is okay – if you can’t be positive and life is just getting you down then just declare it a ‘cancer day’ and crawl back into bed. People will understand.
- Be Open About Your Cancer. It can be difficult for many people to talk about your cancer so talk about it , if you are comfortable doing so. People will want to support you but may not always know how to. Make them, and yourself, more at ease by discussing it and being open about what you are going through.
- Control What You Can. Cancer can make you feel like you’ve lost control of everything. Take some of that control back by being actively involved in your health care, keeping yourself informed, setting and keeping your appointments and making changes in your life that will help you to manage while you are having treatment. These little things will not only help you to manage your care better, but will also give you back your sense of control over your life.
Just remember: there will be good days, and bad days. Try to let the good ones be more frequent than the bad and focus on what you can control and what is good in your life: family and friends.
The Skin Cancer Prevention Guide
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. Over 2 million cases are treated in the country each year—that’s more cases than breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer combined. In 2004, treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers alone cost $1.4 billion.
Although some skin cancer risk factors can’t be changed, there are a lot of ways to can protect yourself and reduce your risk. Just take care of yourself by following these prevention tips.
- Know your natural risk factors.
There are certain risk factors that are out of your control. For example, people with fairer skin are at higher risk than those with darker skin, and men are at greater risk than women. You’re also at greater risk if there is a history of skin cancer in your family, or if you’ve had skin cancer before yourself.
- Protect from UVs
One of the best ways to avoid getting skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. When you go outside, cover up with clothing and hats as much as you can.
Whatever skin isn’t covered, be sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for every day, and SPF 30 for extended periods outside. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after getting sweaty or wet.
- Stay in the shade
Even better than protecting yourself when you’re in the sun, just stay out of it whenever possible. This is especially important during the hours when the sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re not sure how strong the sun is, just look at your shadow—if it’s taller than you are, get inside.
- Check your skin monthly
When a case of skin cancer is caught early, it can make a big difference in how serious it is and how easy it is to treat. A quick monthly self-check can help ensure you’re aware of any potential issues before they’re big problems.
All you need to check your own skin is a full-length mirror and a handheld mirror. Take your clothes off and check your skin all over your body, using the mirrors to check areas you can’t easily see on your own. If you find an abnormal mole or other mark, see a doctor.
- Get an annual checkup
Even if you don’t find any abnormalities in your self-checks, see a doctor once a year. The doctor will take a medical history, then check your body for signs of skin cancer and note the size, shape, color and texture of any areas in question. If a doctor suspects cancer, s/he may recommend further testing.
Prevention and Early Detection are Key
One in five Americans develops skin cancer at some point in their life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. But if you follow these steps, you can significantly reduce your likelihood of being one of them. Even if you do develop skin cancer, following these tips will help you ensure you find it early and address it quickly.
Pediatric Cancer: Managing the Side Effects of Treatment
Thanks to great strides that have been made in cancer treatments, more children who get cancer survive now than ever before—more than 80 percent of children survive at least five years, and most are cured.
But cancer in children is different from cancer in adults. Kids’ quickly growing bodies respond to treatment differently, and that means the side effects, near and long-term, can be different, too.
Here is a look at how the most common cancer treatments can affect child patients.
Chemotherapy works by targeting and destroying fast-growing cells in the body. This works to fight cancer because cancer cells tend to grow faster than most other cells in the body, with the exception of blood and hair cells.
But in children’s growing bodies, many different types of cells are growing quickly, which can lead to increased side effects. In chemo, side effects are more likely to affect the whole body, and can include anemia, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, bruising or bleeding, flu-like symptoms, and hair loss.
It’s difficult to predict how any individual will react, so doctors monitor children undergoing this treatment very carefully.
Radiation treatment uses x-rays to target cancer cells and kill them. The x-ray beams must pass through healthy cells to reach the cancer cells, which can lead to side effects.
The most common side effect of radiation is fatigue. Another is radiation dermatitis, which refers to changes to the skin in the area being treated. Radiation dermatitis may make skin feel sensitive, develop a sunburn-like rash, or lose hair in the area treated.
To minimize these symptoms, clean the area daily with warm water and mild soap; avoid lotions, perfumes, or other skin treatments unless approved by your doctor; stay out of the sun; and avoid applying heat or cold to the area, as this could aggravate the skin further.
Other symptoms may vary depending in the area being treated. Learn more here.
Side effects from radiation generally begin within a few weeks of beginning treatment, and should go away within several weeks of ending treatment.
Like other kinds of treatment, side effects from surgery can vary significantly depending on many factors. Unlike chemotherapy or radiation, surgery does not attack the body’s cells.
The most common side effects are constipation, headaches, nausea and pain. The younger a child is, the greater the potential affect on him or her following a surgery. This is due to how quickly young children grow.
The aforementioned side effects are ones that show up during treatment and go away shortly after treatment ends. However, sometimes cancer treatments can lead to long-term changes in a child’s body, which may not show up until later in life. These are called late effects.
As treatments improve and more children are surviving cancer and reach adulthood, late effects are becoming more common. With this, they have become a more common focus for cancer care and research.
Late effects can be caused by chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Like other side effects of cancer treatment, these late effects may be mild or very serious, depending on many factors, and can be hard to predict.
Late effects can include damage to the heart, lungs, brain, nerves, kidneys, thyroid gland, or reproductive organs. For some children, there are issues with delayed cognitive development, growth problems, or infertility. Some patients who receive certain kinds of chemotherapy have an increased risk of developing a second type of cancer later in life.
Because of these risks, children who are treated for cancer must be monitored carefully by a doctor throughout their lives.
A Lifelong Fight Against Cancer
Cancer treatment has come a long way. But as more and more child cancer survivors not just beating cancer but living long lives afterward, the side effects of treatment have become a more serious issue.
The specifics of any child’s side effects will be contingent on several different factors including age, cancer type, cancer severity, treatment type, and much more. But because some late effects may not emerge until years later, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. Child cancer survivors to be monitored closely for late effects throughout their lives.
Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be a very scary thought, but unfortunately, it is a valid concern for many women. Although breast cancer is usually fairly treatable through a wide variety of options, it is important to catch the disease early in order to have the greatest chance at battling it successfully. Give yourself a little peace of mind by performing a monthly breast self-exam and staying on the lookout for some of the most common warning signs of breast cancer. Read on to learn just what those warning signs are, and what they might mean for you.
Lumps and Knots
Lumps, knots, bumps, or thicker skin anywhere on the breast are easily the most common indication of breast cancer. This can occur on the inside or outside of the breast, near the nipple or further away, and might also appear in the underarm area. Sometimes, these bumps are simply benign calcium deposits, but you will want to get it checked out if you notice something like this on your body.
Of course, if any part of your body is in constant pain, this is usually a good indication that there is something wrong. If you suddenly begin to notice any pain in your breast that is focused on one location and does not go away, this is a good time to visit your doctor and get checked out for breast cancer. Sometimes, this kind of pain can indicate injury like a pulled muscle, but it is always important to find out for sure.
Changes in Size or Shape
If you suddenly notice that one of your breasts has gotten much larger than it used to be, disproportionately to your other breast, this may mean that you have a tumor growing below the skin. The same is true of a breast that takes on a strange shape and no longer looks like it used to. Although breasts often do change shape and size as women age, as well as during pregnancy, changes in a single breast while the other remains the same are strong warning signs of cancer.
Rashes and Discharge
Cancerous tumors near the nipple can cause itchy rashes or scaly skin on the nipple itself. If one of your nipples begins to have a discharge, this can also be indicative of breast cancer. Sometimes, nipples develop rashes and discharge from other illness, so be sure to have these symptoms checked out as soon as possible.
If you notice something that seems amiss during your monthly breast self-check, be sure to bring it up with your doctor as quickly as possible. It is also important for women over the age of forty to receive regular mammograms, which can help diagnose potential problems such as breast cancer even more quickly than a self-exam might. Remember that not all women show signs of breast cancer the same way, so what may seem strange to someone else might be perfectly normal for you. It is important to keep these warning signs in mind, but not to panic if you do notice something that has changed.