When treating breast cancer, catching it in the early stages usually results in better outcomes. However, no matter at what stage cancer is found, interruptions in treatment can undermine the healing process. Having to delay or stop treatment for severe side effects can impact outcomes. In a survey of over 2,000 early stage breast cancer patients, almost 45% of them reported side effects that were severe. They included nausea/vomiting; diarrhea; constipation; pain; arm swelling; shortness of breath; and breast skin irritation. 93% of patients reported at least one of these side effects as severe. Patients who were undergoing both chemotherapy and radiation were 30% more likely to have severe side effects.
While it's expected that the disease and various treatment options will come with some uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects, when the number and intensity gets to be too much, it can have real impact on healing. Post-surgical pain was also reported to be a problem in patients who underwent mastectomies and was reported more often than patients who had lumpectomies. Doctors and researchers are always looking for ways to minimize pain and negative side effects so that patients can have a better chance at full recovery.