Community Shares: Lesser-Known Symptoms of Advanced Breast Cancer You Wish Would Disappear
The symptoms of advanced breast cancer have far-reaching effects on mental, physical, and emotional health. From the digestive tract to the brain, this disease often leaves no region of the body untouched. While not everyone has the same range or severity of symptoms, it can be reassuring to know that others have had similar experiences.
Symptoms of advanced breast cancer
To learn more about which symptoms you struggle with the most, we reached out to our community on the AdvancedBreastCancer.net page. We had so many community members respond to the question that we divided the answers into two articles. This post covers the lesser-known symptoms of advanced breast cancer that you wish would disappear.
Itching with advanced breast cancer
Especially in the early stages, advanced breast cancer often comes with a rash or area of irritation on the breast. The skin can be red or swollen. This symptom is uncomfortable and is something your doctor should keep track of.
“The itching I hated!”
Neuropathy and advanced breast cancer
Numbness or tingling can result from chemotherapy or happen when advanced breast cancer grows along the nerves near the lymph nodes. This neuropathy can show up as pain, burning, tingling, weakness or numbness. This symptom can sometimes be managed, either by changing a medication that might be causing it or by adding a topical pain management patch or cream.
One person specifically responded that they feel “constant neuropathy (numbness).”
Nausea and vomiting from breast cancer
Nausea from chemo, as well as hormonal and targeted therapy, can result in vomiting. Typically, the solution to handling this discomfort is to drink more fluids and snack on bland foods, such as crackers or rice. However, if you are vomiting right after treatment, this could signal an allergy or other adverse reaction to the treatment. If this happens, alert your care team.
Compromised immune system from cancer treatment
The majority of our immune system lives in our gut, which suffers greatly from chemotherapy. There are no shortcuts to rebuilding your immune system. That is why general health recommendations, like washing your hands to eating a healthy diet, are so important.
However, one possible treatment is prescribed colony-stimulating factors or CSFs. Given as an injection or skin patch, this treatment encourages the growth of blood cells while lowering the risk of infection.
Many breast cancer treatments will cause loose stools, sometimes as often as three times per day. If you are suffering from diarrhea, be sure to hydrate more than normal. You can also change your diet by avoiding foods that might be aggravating the condition, such as milk, coffee, alcohol. Conversely, adding raw fruits and veggies, as well as other high-fiber foods, may ease the problem.
“Persistent diarrhea” was listed as one of the most problematic lesser-known symptoms or side effects.
This condition is common enough that it has the nickname “chemo brain.” For many people, remembering things and staying sharp becomes increasingly difficult due to undergoing chemo or other medications. Memory loss can also result from lack of sleep or depression – both of which can happen with advanced breast cancer.
Feeling alone with advanced breast cancer
This is a big symptom that is not often mentioned. When you are the only one in your immediate circle living with advanced breast cancer, it is easy to feel lonely or isolated. However, now more than ever, it is important to reach out. Everyone dealing with advanced breast cancer deserves comfort and connection.
To overcome loneliness, you might try opening up and speaking candidly about your cancer with a friend who will simply listen. Another option is to connect with others – whether in person or online – who are dealing with this same diagnosis and can validate and relate to your concerns.
Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences with advanced breast cancer symptoms. It is our hope that your shares help bring unity and connection to the community.
Have you checked off any items on the Women's Health Self-Care Challenge?