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Functional Decline in Breast Cancer Survivors!?

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Functional decline in breast cancer survivors is a fancy way of saying that chemotherapy and radiation cause DNA damage which results in premature aging as well as other long-term side effects. There is nothing complicated or groundbreaking about the study linked below.

Further, oncology has understood this aspect of toxic treatments for years, probably decades.

The challenge is to identify short, long-term and late stage side effects caused by chemo and/or radiation and prevent or heal these side effects.


How does treatment cause functional decline in breast cancer survivors?

  1. Chemotherapy Side Effects: Chemotherapy, while effective in killing cancer cells, can also affect healthy cells in the body, leading to side effects such as fatigue, cognitive dysfunction (sometimes called “chemo brain”), and reduced physical stamina. These side effects can impact daily functioning and quality of life for survivors.
  2. Radiation Therapy Effects: Radiation therapy, commonly used to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors, can cause fatigue, skin irritation, and damage to surrounding tissues. Depending on the location and intensity of the radiation, it can affect mobility and function in the treated area.
  3. Surgery Complications: Surgical procedures such as lumpectomy or mastectomy can lead to physical limitations and changes in body image, which may affect a person’s emotional well-being and ability to perform certain tasks.
  4. Hormonal Therapy Side Effects: Hormonal therapies, such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, are often prescribed to hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. These medications can have side effects like hot flashes, joint pain, and mood changes, which can impact overall function and quality of life.
  5. Psychological Impact: Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment can take a significant toll on a person’s mental health. Anxiety, depression, and stress can affect cognitive function, energy levels, and motivation, leading to declines in daily functioning.
  6. Physical Deconditioning: During treatment and recovery, many breast cancer survivors may experience a decrease in physical activity levels due to fatigue, pain, or other treatment-related side effects. This can lead to deconditioning of muscles and reduced physical function over time.
  7. Lymphedema: Some breast cancer survivors develop lymphedema, a condition characterized by swelling in the arms or chest due to damage to the lymphatic system during surgery or radiation therapy. Lymphedema can cause discomfort and mobility issues, impacting daily function.

DNA damage causes senescence which causes a staggering number of long-term side effects. 

“Significance: Many genotoxic chemotherapies have debilitating side effects and also induce cellular senescence in normal tissues. The senescent cells remain chronically present where they can promote local and systemic inflammation that causes or exacerbates many side effects of the chemotherapy. Cancer Discov; 7(2); 165–76. ©2016 AACR…”

Adjuvant chemotherapy increases markers of molecular aging in blood of breast cancer survivors

“Adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer is ‘gerontogenic,’ accelerating the pace of physiologic aging, according to a new study. The authors conclude, “We have shown that cytotoxic chemotherapy potently induces the expression of markers of cellular senescence in the hematologic compartment in vivo, comparable with the effects of 10 to 15 years of chronologic aging in independent cohorts of healthy donors.”


I am a long-term cancer survivor who has struggled with my own treatment-induced side effects since my conventional therapies ended in late 1997. No, conventional therapies did not cure me.

In my experience, conventional oncology spends little time and even less money trying to figure out the short, long-term and late stage damage done to cancer patients by conventional therapies.

Over that time however, I have learned that a spectrum of evidence-based non-conventional therapies such as:

man hand holding his nutritional supplemets, healthy lifestyle background.

  • Acupuncture 
  • Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Whole-body hyperthermia, and more

help me manage pain, joint damage, chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy, and more.

Are you a breast cancer survivor struggling with functional decline? If you’d like to know more about therapies email me at David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Functional decline in older breast cancer survivors treated with and without chemotherapy and non-cancer controls: results from the Hurria Older PatiEnts (HOPE) prospective study

“Purpose- This study aimed to assess whether physical functional decline in older women with early-stage breast cancer is driven by cancer, chemotherapy, or a combination of both.

Methods- We prospectively sampled three groups of women aged ≥ 65: 444 with early-stage breast cancer receiving chemotherapy (BC Chemo), 98 with early-stage breast cancer not receiving chemotherapy (BC Control), and 100 non-cancer controls (NC Control). Physical function was assessed at two timepoints (T1 [baseline] and T2 [3, 4, or 6 months]) using the Physical Functioning Subscale (PF-10) of the RAND 36-item Short Form. The primary endpoint was the change in PF-10 scores from T1 to T2, analyzed continuously and dichotomously (Yes/No, with “yes” indicating a PF-10 decline > 10 points, i.e., a substantial and clinically meaningful difference).

Results-Baseline PF-10 scores were similar across all groups. The BC Chemo group experienced a significant decline at T2, with a median change in PF-10 of -5 (interquartile range [IQR], -20, 0), while BC Control and NC Control groups showed a median change of 0 (IQR, -5, 5; p < 0.001). Over 30% of BC Chemo participants had a substantial decline in PF-10 vs. 8% in the BC Control and 5% in the NC Control groups (p < 0.001).

Conclusion-In this cohort of older adults with early-stage breast cancer, the combination of breast cancer and chemotherapy contributes to accelerated functional decline. Our findings reinforce the need to develop interventions aimed at preserving physical function, particularly during and after chemotherapy.

Implications for Cancer Survivors 

The high prevalence of accelerated functional decline in older women undergoing breast cancer chemotherapy underscores the urgency to develop interventions aimed at preserving physical function and improving health outcomes.

Clinical Trial- NCT01472094, Hurria Older PatiEnts (HOPE) with Breast Cancer Study.

 

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