Common side effects of breast cancer treatment and how to help

A cancer diagnosis is a lot to take in, and as soon as you have one you're introduced to a whole new world of language, information, statistics, experiences and emotions. When it comes to breast cancer, treatment varies depending on the stage and type that you have, but many of the treatments have side effects that themselves can be difficult to handle. 

While medics address some of these, their main focus is on treating the cancer itself. That's where we come in - providing holistic support for the side effects of breast cancer treatment to improve quality of life and bring joy back into self-care during this time. 

In this article we look at some of the most prevalent side effects of breast cancer treatment and make recommendations to help soothe them.   

Supporting you through cancer treatment
Breast Cancer Body Care Package


Breast cancer treatments and their side effects

While treatment varies from one person to the next, treatment for breast cancer tends to involve one or more of the following:

• Surgery: to remove the tumour 

• Chemotherapy: to help shrink or kill cancer cells

• Radiotherapy: to help shrink or kill cancer cells

• Hormonal therapy: helps block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow or return.

The side effects of breast cancer treatment naturally vary from one to another, but there are some common themes. In particular, they fall into the following categories:

Chemotherapy and its side effects

Broadly speaking, chemotherapy is intended to attack cancer cells in the body, but because it is used to flush through the body, there can be a lot of other fast-growing cells that get caught in the crossfire. The result are side effects that include:

• Nausea

• Very dry, sensitive skin

• Increasing prevalence towards skin reactions and allergies

• Skin can feel hot

• Nails can become very brittle and weak

• Fatigue 

• Numbness and tingling in hands and feet

• Sore mouth

• Taste changes

• Brain fog


Supporting you through chemotherapy
Breast Cancer Chemo Care Collection


Radiotherapy and its side effects

Radiotherapy is designed to destroy cancer cells by going through the skin, and as a result it can cause damage to the healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area. These side effects, typically include:

• A sunburn-like reaction 

• Redness

• Itching

• Burning 

• Soreness

Surgery and its side effects

Surgery is commonly part of breast cancer treatment, ranging from removing tumours alone to full mastectomies and many other types in between depending on your cancer stage and location. The side effects of surgery can include:

• Stiffness

• Tiredness

• Scarring

• Fluid collection

• Nerve pain

Hormone therapy and its side effects

Hormone therapy is often used to stop breast cancer from returning, and it works by inhibiting certain hormones within the body. Often, this can induce a medical menopause, but whether it does or not, some of the side effects can include:

• Hot flushes

• Dry skin

• Headaches

• Nausea

• Fatigue


Specialist, natural skincare
Defiant Beauty Scalp, Face and Body Gift Collection


Soothing the side effects of cancer treatment

Doctors will usually try to help cancer patients to ease some of the side effects of cancer treatment, particular nausea, using medication. However, many of the side effects, particularly those relating to anxiety or skincare issues, tend to be left to the individual to find what works for them. Medical options, particularly for skincare, don't tend to be very pleasant to use either, and we all need to bring joy into our daily self care routines. Here are some of our holistic suggestions:

Our hydrating spritz
Defiant Beauty Cool and Refresh


Skincare during radiotherapy

During radiotherapy skin can get very hot and present a bit like a burn. This tends to accumulate over time. The challenge is to help skin cool and repair afterwards. We recommend:

A natural, cooling spritz

• Use our Defiant Beauty Itchy Skin Oil

• Use natural balms where possible

Moisturise regularly but don't apply product to broken skin

• Avoid astringent soaps and cleansers


Our soap-free cleanser
Defiant Beauty Cleanse & Moisturise


Skincare during chemotherapy

The big thing during chemotherapy is to use skincare that's very gentle on the skin while providing maximum benefit. Skin can be incredibly sensitive during cancer treatment, but things that can help soothe skin include:

• Use balms over lotions as they tend to contain fewer 'filler' ingredients

• Moisturise multiple times a day

• Use a moisturising lip balm regularly 

• Keep a hydrating and cooling spritz on hand

• Try aromatherapy 

• Try acupressure

Formulated to reduce nausea
Well Being Beauty Vitality Body Oil

Skincare after surgery

After surgery, the main focus as far as skincare goes is helping to nourish and improve the appearance of scarring. Gentle massage can also help ease scar tissue and improve stiffness. We recommend:

• A dedicated oil to reduce scarring 

Gentle massage once the wound has healed

• Moisturise the area multiple times a day  


Rejuvenate skin after surgery
Defiant Beauty Scar Oil


Skincare during hormone therapy

The side effects of hormone therapy vary from one person to the next, but for many women the side effects are quite complex, often moving into the menopausal space. Things that can help include:

Acupressure or acupuncture - especially for hot flushes

• Phytohormones found naturally in foods

Aromatherapy - particularly for fatigue

• Talk to your GP about menopause management

Visit MPlus for holistic approaches to menopause 

• Regular moisturising

• Using natural skincare balms to address the 

• Research the consequences of menopause so you feel informed about what may be happening 

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