Feature Archive

Breast Cancer Survivors: Managing Treatment Side Effects

Sometimes the cure feels worse than the disease. But new drugs and therapies help reduce the ill effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

By Gina Shaw
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

For many women diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease doesn't make them feel ill. It's the treatment -- surgery, radiation, and, most of all, chemotherapy. Coping with side effects that range from nausea and fatigue to mouth sores and premature menopause can make four, six, or eight months of treatment seem like a lifetime.

And for many women, side effects can linger long after breast cancer treatment is over. What's more, some, such as low blood counts or nausea and vomiting so extreme they can't be controlled, can delay the next treatment, possibly making it less effective.

As scientists research new treatments for breast cancer, they're also studying new "treatments for the treatments," new ways to prevent or reduce some of the most debilitating side effects of cancer therapies.

New Drug Controls Nausea

One of the most common (and awful) side effects of many types of chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting. It leaves many women exhausted, dehydrated, and sometimes so distressed that they want to stop chemotherapy altogether. Some women are so affected by chemotherapy nausea that, even years later, they find themselves searching for a bathroom or a bucket at the mere sight of their oncologist.