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Does Radiation For Breast Cancer Cause Hair Loss

Radiation Therapy Is A One Of The Best Options For Treatment Of Breast Cancer For Multiple Reasons:

Chemotherapy Hair Loss During Breast Cancer Treatment
  • Its just as good if not better than traditional mastectomy treatment at eliminating cancer and reducing recurrence, but
  • Its much faster and incredibly more convenient when compared to several surgeries
  • its completely safe as the radiation is highly targeted, no other organs or tissue is ever at risk
  • The cosmetic results are tremendous, you dont need new breasts or reconstruction surgery
  • And when detected early has a 95% success rate
At the Innovative Cancer Institute there is no one-treatment-fits all approach to patient care, especially when it comes to Breast Cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in the US.

Dr. Beatriz Amendola along with our radiation oncology staff will partnerwith you throughout your entire course of treatment and provide the best individualized cancer therapy using the latest treatment techniques. We work directly with your referring doctors and jointly guide you throughout your treatment course.

Those Most And Least Likely Drugs To Have This Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment

Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

To many, hair loss is one of the more dreaded side effects of chemotherapy for cancer. An estimated 65% of patients undergoing classic chemotherapy experience what doctors call alopecia. But while some chemotherapy medications almost always result in such hair loss, others typically cause minimal hair loss.

Other factors related to chemo can affect hair loss as well, such as the dose of the drug given. Of course, effectively treating your cancer is the top priority. But knowing about this potential in advance can help you prepare for it. Fortunately, there are options available to help people cope with this symptom.

What Side Effects Occur With Radiation Therapy To The Stomach And Abdomen

If you are having radiation treatment to the stomach or some portion of the abdomen, you may experience an upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to relieve these problems. Do not take any home remedies during your treatment unless you first check with your doctor or nurse.

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Possible Side Effects Of External Beam Radiation

The main short-term side effects of external beam radiation therapy to the breast are:

  • Swelling in the breast
  • Skin changes in the treated area similar to a sunburn
  • Fatigue

Your health care team may advise you to avoid exposing the treated skin to the sun because it could make the skin changes worse. Most skin changes get better within a few months. Changes to the breast tissue usually go away in 6 to 12 months, but it can take longer.

External beam radiation therapy can also cause side effects later on:

Managing Ongoing Hair Thinning

Radiation Therapy Hair Loss

Breast cancer treatments such as hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy can cause some people to have ongoing mild to moderate hair loss. If youre concerned that your hair isnt growing back or is noticeably thinner than in the past, its a good idea to see a dermatologist. If possible, seek out one who specializes in hair loss or an onco-dermatologist who focuses on problems with the hair, skin, and nails that can develop during cancer treatment. The dermatologist will order blood tests to check whether there are other reasons for your hair loss besides the effects of breast cancer treatments. Thyroid problems, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors can play a role in hair loss.

For mild to moderate hair loss, dermatologists often recommend Rogaine , an over-the-counter medication that promotes hair growth. Its safe for people with a history of breast cancer and moderately effective. But check with your oncologist before you start using minoxidil. In most cases, you can use it while you take hormonal therapy or targeted therapy, but not during chemotherapy treatment. Look for products labeled 5% minoxidil foam that you apply to your scalp when your hair and scalp are dry. Its ok for women to use minoxidil products labeled for men. Minoxidil is thought to stimulate hair growth by, among other things, improving blood flow in the scalp and prolonging the growth phase of each hair follicle.

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Vitamins To Avoid During Radiation Therapy

Your radiation oncologist may tell you to avoid taking certain antioxidant vitamin supplements, such as vitamins C, A, D, and E, while youâre having radiation therapy. These vitamins might interfere with radiationâs ability to destroy cancer cells.This is because radiation works in part by creating free radicals highly energized molecules that damage cancer cells. Free radicals in the environment can damage all cells, but in the case of radiation treatment they are focused on the cancer cells. Antioxidants help keep free radicals from forming or neutralize them if they do form.

Because of the potential conflict between the goal of radiation therapy and the goal of antioxidants , it makes sense to stop taking any antioxidant supplements during radiation therapy. When radiation is finished, you can resume taking your supplements.

Throughout your treatment, do your best to eat a well-balanced diet that contains all of the vitamins you need. Vitamins that come naturally from food are unlikely to interfere with treatment.

Read To Know What Dr Pawan Gupta Has To Say About Hair Loss And Breast Cancer

Written by Bhavyajyoti Chilukoti | Updated : October 31, 2017 11:59 AM IST

We all know that leaky breasts or a lump in the breast are a sign of breast cancer. But one common question that most people have is — can breast cancer also lead to hair loss? We asked Dr Pawan Gupta, Additional Director, Surgical Oncology, Jaypee Hospital, Noida about the same and here is what he has to say about hair loss and breast cancer.

If you thought that hair loss is a symptom of breast cancer, you are wrong. Breast cancer does not cause hair loss. Moreover, the severity of hair loss is independent of the stage of the cancer and the type of breast cancer. In the case of cancer, as the cell divides continuously, there is a less chance of hair loss. However, if you suffer from breast cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy, then there are high chances that you can lose hair because of the medications. Also, the severity of hair loss is high, if the dose of drugs is high. Hence, hair loss in the case of breast cancer is mainly because of the treatment process — chemotherapy and radiation and not a symptom of the cancer. Here’s more on what to expect after your breast cancer treatment.

Can hair loss during chemotherapy be prevented?

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Effect Of Other Cancer Therapies

The newer targeted therapies for cancer don’t usually cause total hair loss like chemotherapy drugs but can result in changes such as thinning of the hair and dryness, as well as changes in texture similar to chemo curls. Some targeted therapies may also affect the pigmentation of hair, often causing the hair to become darker.

Some of the targeted therapies that have been linked with hair changes or hair loss include:

  • Cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors such as Ibrance , Kisqali , and Verzenio
  • VEGF inhibitors such as Nexavar
  • BRAF inhibitors such as Zelboraf and Tafinlar
  • Bcr/Abl inhibitors such as Tasigna and Gleevec

Some of the hormonal therapies commonly used for breast cancer have been associated with thinning of the hair for some people. Unlike chemotherapy, people may be using the drug for many months or even years before they notice the changes in their hair. Hormonal therapies more often linked to hair loss include:

  • Tamoxifen
  • Aromatase inhibitors: Hair loss appears to be more common with Arimidex and Femara than with Aromasin .
  • Faslodex

Immunotherapy drugs for cancer, at least checkpoint inhibitors, do not usually cause hair loss, though oftentimes these drugs are used along with chemotherapy. Researchers are looking at ways of harnessing the gene involved in autoimmune alopecia to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

How To Manage Hair Loss

Avoiding hair loss during Chemotherapy

If you had a , your reaction to hair loss may be very different than it was the first time around. It may bother you less because you feel youd rather focus on other concerns. Or you may feel more emotional about the hair loss because of its tie to your and treatment.

Some women want to take charge by shaving their heads, or cutting their hair very short, before the hair falls out. You may find it empowering to do so. Or you may prefer to wait and see.

If you wish to cover your head, you may want to explore your options ahead of time. You could choose a wig that resembles your natural hair or one that gives you a new look, or you could buy caps and brightly colored scarves.

Heat escapes from the tops of our heads. Without hair, you may find yourself feeling chilly. Buy hats to protect your scalp from the sun and to keep warm. If you dont want to cover your head, it is perfectly fine to go bald.

It would be great if there were a simple pill to prevent hair loss or a magic lotion you could rub on your scalp to keep your hair full. There isnt such a product , though research into how to minimize cancer effects, including hair loss, is ongoing.

The American Cancer Society offers these tips on ways to be gentle to your hair during cancer treatment:

  • Use mild shampoo
  • Use low heat if you use a hair dryer
  • Dont use brush rollers
  • Dont dye or perm your hair
  • Use a satin pillowcase

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What Kind Of Skin Problems Can Radiation Therapy Cause

The way external radiation therapy affects your skin is similar to what happens when you spend time in the sun. It may look red, sunburned, or tanned. It may also get swollen or blistered. Your skin may also become dry, flaky, or itchy. Or it may start to peel.

Be gentle with your skin:

  • Don’t wear tight clothing over the area that’s being treated.
  • Don’t scrub or rub your skin. To clean it, use a mild soap and let lukewarm water run over it.
  • Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the area unless the doctor tells you to.
  • Ask your doctor before you use any type of ointment, oil, lotion, or powder on your skin.
  • Ask about using corn starch to help relieve itching.
  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Cover the area getting radiation with clothing or hats to protect it. Ask the doctor about using sunscreen if you must be outdoors.
  • If youâre having radiation therapy for breast cancer, try not to wear a bra. If that isn’t possible, wear a soft, cotton one without underwire.
  • Don’t use any tape, gauze, or bandages on your skin unless the doctor tells you to.

Your skin should start to feel better a few weeks after therapy ends. But when it heals, it may be a darker color. And youâll still need to protect yourself from the sun even after radiation therapy has ended.

How Radiation Treatments Affect The Skin

Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves to destroy cancer cells. It damages the DNA inside those cells, killing them off so they can no longer cause problems.

Unlike chemotherapy, radiation doesnt cause skin and hair problems all over, but it can affect the skin where the radiation treatment occurs. It has to pass through the skin to reach the area where the cancer lives, which means the skin may suffer some ill effects.

Common side effects of radiation treatment on the surrounding skin include the following:

  • Peeling skin
  • Skin color changes, usually darker or tanned looking
  • Burning sensation
  • Blistering

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How Sex Might Be Affected

With some types of radiation therapy involving the pelvis and/or sex organs, men and women may notice changes in their ability to enjoy sex or a decrease in their level of desire.

For women: During radiation treatment to the pelvis, some women are told not to have sex. Some women may find sex painful. Treatment can also cause vaginal itching, burning, and dryness. You most likely will be able to have sex within a few weeks after treatment ends, but check with your doctor first. Some types of treatment can have long-term effects, such as scar tissue that could affect the ability of the vagina to stretch during sex. Again, your cancer care team can offer ways to help if this happens to you. You can also get more information in Sex and Women With Cancer.

For men: Radiation may affect the nerves that allow a man to have erections. If erection problems do occur, they are usually gradual, over the course of many months or years. Talk with your doctor about treatment options if this is a concern for you. You can get more information in Sex and Men With Cancer.

If you get internal radiation therapy with seed implants, check with your cancer care team about safety precautions during sex

How To Manage The Side Effects Of Radiation

Hair Loss After Chemo

Despite radiation therapy having side effects, there are ways by which we can alleviate them. Some are simple remedies, while others may need the evaluation and help of a doctor. For breast soreness or pain, common pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful. If the breast becomes red, itchy, or beings peeling, some creams can be used for relief.

Exercising and getting enough sleep can help combat fatigue. Short, simple exercises such as walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day can help alleviate this side effect. If fatigue or sleeping problems persist or lymphedema is evident, a doctor can help manage them.

Breast cancer is a very challenging illness, but we have many treatment options for people with it. Remember, no treatment is without side effects. It is crucial to be aware of these treatment options and their side effects to give the best management for every person.

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Taxotere Lawsuit: I Was Not Warned

Dodson is one of more than a thousand women who have sued Sanofi over allegations that the company failed to adequately warn breast cancer patients that Taxotere causes permanent hair loss.

I meet women all the time who are suffering varying degrees of hair loss from Taxotere, and some of them have heard about the lawsuit a lot of them havent, Dodson said. There are thousands more who just havent realized. It took me five years to realize this was permanent and no amount of specialty shampoo was going to help. There are a lot of women who have been harmed.

More than 1,600 Taxotere lawsuits are pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana under what is known as a multidistrict litigation, or MDL. Four of those cases are expected to go to trial in 2019.

Lawsuits say Sanofi-Aventis sold Taxotere without properly testing it, failed to determine whether the drug was safe and manufactured a dangerous drug. Plaintiffs also allege the company misled the public in advertising and marketing, downplayed the dangers associated with the drug and kept information from the public.

I have a piece of paper where I jotted down notes when I was talking to my oncologist in 2010 about the various side effects of the different chemos he was suggesting to me, and I wrote down Taxotere: short-term hair loss, Dodson said. I wrote down all kinds of very specific details and nowhere on that page does it mention possible permanent hair loss. I was not warned.

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