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Breast Cancer – Managing Side Effects of Radiation

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This is the second article of a three-part series of articles discussing the side effects of radiation. Radiation is a procedure that kills off any leftover cancer cells that surgery didn’t get. On the other hand, no procedure is a 100 percent cure-all or side effect free. This would definitely include radiation.

Armpit Discomfort

Some patients have pain, swelling, fullness or numbness after surgery to remove any breast cancer. During surgery, nerves in the breast area and near your armpit may be cut. Further, the surgeon may have had to physically maneuver some tissue around. In both cases, the result may leave the patient with a feeling of numbness, tenderness or swelling. Add to the fact that your armpit skin is so close to the breast that this skin gets sore after radiation treatment is done. It may not help that when we naturally swing our arms back and forth, this may cause friction as well.

Tips to Ease Armpit Discomfort as Described by BreastCancer.org:

Use cornstarch instead of deodorant or antiperspirant to reduce underarm friction.
Avoid strong soaps
Don’t shave your armpit during your radiation course
Wear loose clothing
Apply aloe vera lotion/gel or hydrocortisone cream if your armpit becomes irritated
Use warm rather than hot water while showering

Chest Pain

After surgery, the patient can feel pain or even numbness in the chest area where the incision was made. Even though with time nerves repair themselves, having been cut during the surgical procedure may result in pain and numbness. But even during and after radiation therapy, some have experienced shooting pain in the chest area. Simply put, radiation can irritate the nerves and may even cause them to swell.

Tips on Easing Chest Pain Discomfort as Described by BreastCancer.org:

Sometimes, chest pain can be alleviated by medications that your doctor may recommend. It is always advisable to talk to your doctor first before treating any kind of chest pain yourself. After your doctor has made his recommendations, other kinds of techniques such as the ones below can also be used:

Chiropractic therapy
Massage therapy
Music therapy

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.