Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Visible Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatments

    Arm Swelling

    Doctors call this lymphedema. It's swelling in the arm on the side where you've had breast or lymph node surgery. It can also happen after you get radiation. It’s often a temporary side effect, but it can be permanent. If so, it can affect your quality of life.

    You can lessen its impact if you spot the symptoms of it early.

    Tips:

    • Don't ignore any swelling you have in your arm.
    • Avoid injury to the skin of an affected arm.
    • Wear gloves when you garden or do housework.
    • Avoid extreme water-temperature changes.
    • Keep your arm protected from the sun.
    • Avoid getting shots or IVs on your affected arm.
    • Don't carry heavy handbags or wear heavy jewelry on the affected side.

    The swelling may affect the type of clothing you can wear. You may need an elastic compression sleeve to control swelling, along with more loose-fitting clothes.

    Ask your doctor for a referral to a certified lymphedema therapist. She can show you safe exercises and other techniques to help avoid or reduce swelling.

    Weight Gain or Loss

    You might have either during your treatment.

    Weight loss might be due to nausea, vomiting, or appetite changes.

    Weight gain is sometimes brought on by chemotherapy, or hormone therapy, which can both cause early menopause. But some other medications you may take can also cause you to put on extra pounds, as can changes in your diet and being less active.

    Tips:

    Now is not the time to diet. Eat nutritious, balanced meals to help yourself stay at a healthy weight, keep up your energy, and heal.

    These recommendations may help:

    • Eat plenty of protein, but limit saturated fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt.
    • Eat smaller meals more often throughout the day, especially if you're nauseous.
    • Find an exercise partner to help you stick with a routine. Even a few minutes a day can make a positive difference in how you feel.

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
     
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
     
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    VIDEO
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Article
     
    Woman getting mammogram
    Article
    Screening Tests for Women
    Article
     
    serious woman
    Article
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    QUIZ
     
    what is your cancer risk
    Article
    breast cancer survivors
    Article