Managing Breast Cancer Side Effects: A Guide for Women

If you’ve been diagnosed and are living with breast cancer, you know that treatment can be a long and challenging journey, paved with speed bumps, twists and turns. Not only can it be physically exhausting, but it can also significantly impact your emotional wellbeing.

However, there are ways to manage these side effects and improve your quality of life during treatment.

In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common side effects of breast cancer treatment and offer strategies for coping with them.

Understanding breast cancer treatment side effects

Breast cancer treatment can cause a wide range of side effects. This will vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the specific treatments used.

Some of the most common side effects of breast cancer treatment include:

·        Pain.

·        Fatigue.

·        Hair loss.

·        Skin changes.

·        Nausea and vomiting.

It's important to understand that these side effects are a normal part of breast cancer treatment and that you don't have to suffer in silence. Communicating openly with your healthcare team about your symptoms is crucial, as they can offer guidance and support to help manage them.

Managing breast cancer treatment side effects

Let’s go into a bit more detail about the side effects of breast cancer treatment, as well as what you can do to better manage these side effects.


Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of breast cancer treatment, and it can be both physical and emotional. Here are some strategies for managing fatigue:

·        Eat a balanced diet.

·        Prioritise rest and relaxation.

·        Incorporate light exercise into your routine.

·        Delegate tasks and ask for help when needed.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be a challenging breast cancer side effect to manage, but there are several strategies that can help alleviate these symptoms, including:

·        Drinking plenty of fluids.

·        Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day.

·        Avoiding foods that are spicy, greasy and high in fat.

·        Taking medication as prescribed by your health care team.


Pain can be a significant source of discomfort during breast cancer treatment. However, there are a few options for managing it, including:

·        Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.

·        Taking prescription pain medications as prescribed by your healthcare team.

·        Trying alternative pain management techniques, such as massage or acupuncture.

Hair loss

Hair loss can be a very distressing side effect of breast cancer treatment, but there are some ways to cope with it. This includes:

·        Trying different wigs and head coverings.

·        Taking care of your scalp to avoid further damage.

·        Seeking support from friends, family or a counselor.

Skin changes

Treatments can cause a variety of skin changes, such as dryness, itching, or redness. Some strategies for managing these symptoms include:

·        Applying moisturiser regularly.

·        Avoiding hot showers and baths.

·        Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

Emotional distress

Having breast cancer and going through treatment can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. As such, it’s essential to be proactive in seeking out support from friends and family. Some good practices to help you better cope with emotional distress can include:

·        Seeking counseling from a licensed therapist.

·        Joining a support group for women with breast cancer.

·        Talking openly with friends and family members about your feelings.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer treatment side effects?

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer treatment side effects:

·        Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

·        Communicate with your healthcare team about your concerns and any side effects you experience.

·        Consider participating in a clinical trial, as new treatments may have fewer side effects.

·        Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption, as these habits can increase the risk of some side effects.

How long do breast cancer treatment side effects last?

The duration of breast cancer treatment side effects depends on several factors, including the type of treatment, the individual's overall health, and the severity of the side effects. Some side effects, such as hair loss, may be temporary and resolve shortly after treatment ends. Other side effects, such as fatigue and neuropathy, may persist for months or even years after treatment.

It's important to discuss any concerns about side effects with your healthcare team, as they can provide individualised information based on your specific situation.

Can I continue to work and participate in other activities during breast cancer treatment?

The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of treatment, the individual's overall health, and the demands of their job or other activities.

Some people are able to continue working and participating in activities during treatment, while others may need to take time off or reduce their level of activity.